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Book review: Do androids dream of electric sheep?

This is my book review of Do Androids Dream of Electrical Sheep by Philip K. Dick.

Book review of Do Androids Dream of Electrical Sheep

I borrowed the book from a co-worker, who also reviews books (in Danish) in this laidback podcast Læ – check them out if you speak Danish! I had confessed that I hadn’t yet read some of the older sci-fi works, so I ended up with this in my hand. Apparently, this is the novel that became Blade Runner, which I had heard of before.

Summary of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

This summary is taken from the blurp on the back of the book.

“War has left the earth devastated. Through it’s ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalks the runaway androids who are his prey. When he isn’t ‘retiring’ them, he dreams of owning the ultimate status symbol – a live animal. Then Rick gets his chance – a big assignment: to track down six Nexus-6 targets for a huge reward. But life is never that straightforward and Rick’s quickly turns into a kaleidoscopic nightmare of subterfuge and deceit, and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted…”

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Bearing in mind, that a lot has happened in the world since Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep came out, I still found it relevant at its core. It’s very obvious on the theme, discussing humanity and the connections between humans and machines. The cleverer the machine, the more attachment and the more humans ascribe feelings to the machines. The question is then, if the machine agrees or not. Do they have autonomy, free will and feelings? Do humans?

Rick Deckard and society

Rick seems like a typical pawn of his contemporary world. He isn’t exactly an instant likeable character, but he’s there. Which seems to describe pretty much everything in his life. His marriage isn’t exactly a literary goldmine for the book, and is not really explored further than the introductory.

Society doesn’t seem too apocalyptic, but it’s a normalized world, where some people are just better than others. Or they have more or have real animals. The animals are rare, as the earth is pretty much ruined, so naturally, everyone wants a real pet. This is a whole industry in itself, with robotic animals becoming a new norm.

The plot and the awakening

Throughout the story, Rick’s goals are to kill the Nexus-6 androids and through that, getting enough money to buy a real animal. Which might help his marriage in the end. Drawing nearer the finishline, Rick starts doubting his own morals. Who’s to say these androids don’t deserve to ‘live’? Do androids dream of electric sheep?

It’s all written quite nicely, with a solid progression and a few humorous scenes. Rick seems like a good standard character, who needs to do an inner survey and reflect on his choices. The androids pose an exciting moral question on several levels and it’s a good read.

Something old, something new?

I don’t know whether this book aged well or not, as this is not exactly a new challenge in the world of artificial intelligence anymore. Lots of recent works of art, film, theatre etc. bring out narratives around this subject. But it’s been a solid read, not too long and it’s obviously a classic, that deserves a read. Especially if you want to dive into some of the older sci-fi.  It did bring me an understanding of how humans’ fascination with machines and their intelligence, never gets old. We will always wonder.

Have you read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!

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