Book #58: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I’ve recently discovered Philip K. Dick, a science-fiction author who has had several novels turned into well-known films. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the source novel for the Blade Runner movies. I’ve never seen them, but the story sounded intriguing (I’ve since learned that the movie and novel are not the same story, fyi). The novel takes place in a futuristic 2021 following World War Terminus, a nuclear war that has left the earth decimated. Most animals have died and most humans have relocated to a colony on Mars to avoid the damaging effects of the lingering nuclear fallout. The colonists are given androids to help with the rough living on Mars. However, some androids are not content with their servitude and kill their human owners and escape to Earth where they attempt to live as humans. Rick Deckard has remained on Earth. Like all the others left on the planet, he dreams of having enough money to afford to own one of the rare surviving animals, the ultimate status symbol. Those that can’t afford real animals buy electric substitutes that look so real they’re indistinguishable. Rick longs to replace his electric sheep with a real animal. His job is as a bounty hunter for the San Fransisco Police, tasked with hunting down rogue androids and “retiring” (killing) them. He is given the assignment to retire six of the newest and most advanced androids that are hiding in San Fransisco. Dick’s novel is classic sci-fi that explores deep philosophical questions in a dystopian, futuristic setting. He¬†questions what makes us human and the answer he offers is empathy – the only way to tell the difference between androids and humans is by a test that measures empathy. Androids have none, and can only fake it. This makes them cold and unfeeling, unable to perform a selfless act; they’re calculated and willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves. As Deckard hunts the androids down one by one, he begins to question his identity and the morality of his quest. He fears he cannot do his job anymore because he realizes he empathizes with the androids and even the electric animals. Ultimately, he comes to see this not as a weakness but exactly what makes him human. It’s a fantastic tale fans of science-fiction will enjoy.

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