Book Reviews BRunner Book

Published on October 24th, 2012 | by Michaela Buckley

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Migrated Between Electric Sheep and Blade Runners

The first ever Sci-Fi book I read was “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick, I was in a cheap bookstore about (and only) 6 years ago and saw it for about a pound. My copy has a Blade Runner cover, which if it were any other book or film, might have been ugly and shameful. I watched Blade Runner when I was very young and understood none of it.
I decided to buy the book as I was in the habit of buying Movie-books and Sci-Fi films are my favourite.
It is one of my favourite books of all time.

The book has a slight timeshift when adapted to film however the setup is essentially the same.
It’s 1992 from a 1967 perspective, which means that there are flying cars, programmable emotions and obviously, androids.

Lots of people have taken issue with these frequent Sci-Fi blunderdates, although I am never sure why. It makes a fair amount of sense to take the steps and follow each aspect of life through its logical and possible evolutions when creating a Sci-Fi novel set in the future, hell it doesn’t just make sense, it’s essential. It’s hardly an author’s fault that technology accelerates at different rates. However there are readers who will refuse to read a book because of some time errors. Which would really be the reader’s loss.

The novel is set on the abandoned Earth, where the only people who remained are the dreggs of society, ebbing out their dreary lives with only Mood Organs, which can realign your feelings, horrendous daytime T.V. and Empathy Boxes which are the conduit for the mysterious Earth religion “Mercerism”.

All humans of note have left the Earth to live luxurious lives in the colonies off -world after the planet was ravaged by radiation fallout from World War Terminus, unfortunately we are never told much about the leadup to the events, however the effect is well maintained, as the humans have to learn to cope existing in a place where living animals are so rare and coveted they have their own catalogues for pricing and extinction levels and the very rubbish that is strewn around the earth seems to have an encompassing presence of its own.

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Although not as refined, one of the first instances of Cyberpunk.

Much of the book concerns small time Bounty Hunter, Rick Deckard as he struggles through his mundane married life, where his inadequate electric sheep serves only as a reminder to his financial lows and his boss thinks him dirt. Until a fantastic assignment crops up. 4 Androids have escaped to Earth from the colonies where they are forced to work. It is illegal for androids to shirk their duty and be on Earth and the job of a Bounty Hunter is to “retire” them. Successful completion means a large wage, possibly enough to buy that live animal that he has always dreamed of…

Throughout the book Deckard learns to deal with his own and other’s humanity as he begins to go through a mid-life crisis, where the despair of the decaying planet, his chronically depressed wife and the realisation that his job has consisted of what he begins to equate as murder, finally begin to nestle and infest his mind.

There are many differences between the book and the film, yet each I feel shine as their own kind of art, Blade Runner attempting a minimalistic noir atmosphere, while the book is about a man who got on with the job, only recently questioning the way he lives his life.

The book is really groundbreaking and is completely relevant and fresh, despite being written nearly 45 years ago. The nature of the fear and doubt is timeless and the story undergoes so many twists and turns that you are never left wondering about any single topic for too long, this makes the book feel strangely fast paced, especially as it only covers one day in time and there is limited action segments.

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Something like Mercerism.

Fans of Philip K. Dick will instantly be drawn to the familiar themes of disillusionment, paranoia and fear, however there is new ground that is covered with explorations into previously untapped ideas in PKD’s other works. Speculative writing regarding the nature of humanity and the human condition, as well as the use of an instrument for the citizens to log into their mass hallucinations as opposed to the usual method of drugs.
Dick has alluded to religion in his other works, yet none quite as thought provoking as Electric Sheep’s “Mercerism”. With Judeo-Chritian allegory and a somewhat Marxist edge, the religion of Wilbur Mercer is an intriguing, albeit haunting addition to a book that is otherwise tame in its execution of the usual psychowarp we tend to expect from this author.

I recently re-read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and it only took a few hours. Without overstatement, It’s still one of the most relevant Sci-Fi books widely available and is as amazing to read the second time as it was the first.
If you haven’t already tried it, it’s definitely worth the ride.

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An artist’s impression of what a robotic sheep might look like.

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