Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
DoAndroidsDream.png
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author(s)Philip K. Dick
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Science fiction novel
PublisherDoubleday
Publication date1968
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages210 pp
ISBN0-345-40447-5
OCLC Number34818133
Followed byBlade Runner 2: The Edge of Human
 
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
DoAndroidsDream.png
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author(s)Philip K. Dick
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Science fiction novel
PublisherDoubleday
Publication date1968
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages210 pp
ISBN0-345-40447-5
OCLC Number34818133
Followed byBlade Runner 2: The Edge of Human

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. First published in 1968, the book served as the primary basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic near future, where Earth and its populations have been damaged greatly by nuclear war during World War Terminus. Most types of animals are endangered or extinct due to extreme radiation poisoning from the war. To own an animal is a sign of status, but what is emphasized more is the empathic emotions humans experience towards an animal.

The main plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who is faced with "retiring" six escaped Nexus-6 brain model androids, the latest and most advanced model, while a secondary plot follows John Isidore, a man of sub-normal intelligence who aids the fugitive androids. In connection with Deckard's mission, the novel explores the issue of what it is to be human. Unlike humans, the androids possess no empathic sense. In essence, Deckard probes the existence of defining qualities that separate humans from androids.

Contents

Setting

Overview

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in the year 1992 (2021 in later editions[1]), projecting 25 years in the future after the author's 1967 writing, after World War Terminus and its radioactive fallout have destroyed most of Earth. The U.N. encourages emigration to off-world colonies, in hope of preserving the human race from the terminal effects of the fallout. One emigration incentive is giving each emigrant an "andy" — a servant android.

The remaining populace live in cluttered, decaying cities wherein radiation poisoning sickens them and damages their genes. Animals are rare, and keeping and owning live animals is an important societal norm and status symbol. But many people turn towards the much cheaper synthetic, or electric, animals to keep up the pretense. Prior to the story's beginning Rick Deckard owned a real sheep, but it died of tetanus, and he replaced it with an electric one.

The story is set in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco was one of the last places affected by the radioactive dust, especially on the peninsula to the south. It is monitored daily by meteorologists using the Mongoose weather satellite in Earth's orbit. While still relatively habitable, the sandy deserts of Oregon to the north are highly contaminated by radiation. Rick Deckard stays in a building on the east-side of the bay with his wife, Iran, who is depressed. J.R. Isidore lives on the peninsula south of San Francisco.

The main Earth religion is Mercerism, in which Empathy Boxes link simultaneous users into a collective consciousness based on the suffering of Wilbur Mercer, a man who takes an endless walk up a mountain while stones are thrown at him, the pain of which the users share. The television appearances of Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends, broadcast twenty-three hours a day, represents a second religion, designed to undermine Mercerism and allow androids to partake in a kind of consumerist spirituality.

Androids

Androids are used only in the colonies (the only colonies mentioned in the book are on Mars, although humans attempted to colonize the star Proxima), yet many escape to Earth, fleeing the psychological isolation and chattel slavery. Although made of biological materials and physically all but indistinguishable from humans, they are considered to be pieces of machinery. Bounty hunters, such as Rick Deckard, hunt and "retire" (kill) fugitive androids passing for humans. Often, the police department will collect and analyze the corpses of suspected "andys" to confirm that they are, in fact, "artificial".

Earlier androids were easier to detect because of their limited intelligence. As android technology improved, bounty hunters had to apply an empathy test — the Voigt-Kampff test — to distinguish humans from androids, by measuring empathetic responses, or lack thereof, from questions designed to evoke an emotional response, often including animal subjects and themes. Because androids are not sympathetic, their responses are either absent or feigned, and measurably slower than a human's. The simpler Boneli Test, used by another police department in San Francisco, measures the reflex-arc velocity in the spinal column's upper ganglia, by testing their reaction time to visual stimuli. However, the only way to be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that an individual is an android is to take a bone marrow sample.

Plot summary

The novel is a day in the life of bounty hunter Rick Deckard, January 3/1992, as he tracks down renegade androids who have assumed human identities in a post-apocalyptic world where animals are rare and the human population has largely migrated off-world.

Deckard seldom works in and does not consider himself to be either a peace officer or a full-time bounty hunter, the entire Northern California area is the territory of the district's senior bounty hunter Dave Holden, but accepts the left-over cases that Holden either does not want or have time to pursue. On this day he learns that Holden has been hospitalized following his investigation into the recent escape of 6 Nexus-Six androids. Deckard accepts the bounty in order to give his life meaning and combat the ennui of his existence and lack of social standing; a recent realization brought on by the malaise of his wife and the social stigma of not being able to own an organic animal pet.

The novel begins with Deckard feeling alienated from his bed-ridden wife, Iran, who misuses her mood organ device, intended to keep the population in even temper, by dialing the depression setting daily. Later Deckard has a conversation with his neighbor Bill Barbour as they tend to their domesticated animals, Deckard owns a malfunctioning synthetic black-faced Suffolk ewe being unable to afford an organic animal, where he realizes that owning a real animal would give meaning to his life.

He travels by flying car to Rosen Industries in Seattle, Washington, to administer a bounty hunter "empathy test", a standard method for detection of androids posing as human in the form of a question and answer session, on the companies new Nexus-Six series. Deckard is introduced to and interviews Rachael who eventually fails the test by hesitation in reaction to what should be normal human responses. It is explained that Rachael is indeed human but lacks normal empathy due to being raised on a spaceship that was attempting to colonize Proxima before turning back.

Rachael attempts to bribe Deckard with the gift of a real owl but during the conversation he verifies his finding that she was Nexus-Six and that Rosen Industries was just trying to discredit the empathy test. Rachael had memories implanted and is not aware she isn't human, however it is later implied this was a ruse and that she knows her her origin and is being used by the corporation to protect other androids from bounty hunters through sexual favors.

Deckard ponders on the meaning of humanity, morality and empathy following an attempt to retire an android opera singer. He is arrested and taken to be a police station where he is accused of being an android before escaping with fellow bounty hunter Phil Resch after deducing that the station was fake and staffed by androids. His moral quandary deepens after working briefly with Phil Resch, who Deckard first believes is an android but then learns is a particularly callous fellow human bounty hunter.

Deckard's story is interwoven with that of J.R. Isidore (a surname Dick also used in Confessions of a Crap Artist), a "special" (i.e. genetically-damaged) driver for an animal repair shop who cannot qualify to leave Earth due to his "special" status. Isidore's low I.Q. is due to radioactive dust-induced genetic damage, who lives alone in an empty apartment building with little outside contact. Pris Stratton, an identical twin to Rachael Rosen, moves into the building and the lonely Isidore attempts to befriend her. Pris and her friends enlist Isidore to trap the bounty hunter chasing them down and Deckard recruits Rachael to help him. However Rachael attempts to use her sexuality on Deckard to distract him from his work. After Deckard confesses his love for Rachael she reveals she has slept with multiple bounty hunters and, with the exception of Phil Resch, was able to dissuade them from retiring their targets. Deckard is tempted to retire Rachael but instead tells her to return to Rosen Industries.

Deckard confronts the androids alone and succeeds in killing them, causing Isidore to break down from the loss of his only friends, and earning Deckard a citation for a near-record number of kills in one day. He returns home and his wife reports having seen Rachael Rosen kill his real pet goat. He understands that Rachael was taking revenge and is thankful that the loss is only financial.

He travels by car to an isolated sand dunes area in the state of Oregon to meditate and has an epiphany. He also finds a toad, thought to be extinct and considered to be Mercer (the supposed Messiah)'s favorite animal. Deckard brings it home, where his wife discovers that the toad is in fact synthetic. While Deckard is not glad, he 'prefers' to know that the toad after-all is artificial.

Adaptations

Film

In 1982, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples' loose cinematic adaptation became the film Blade Runner, which was directed by Ridley Scott. The international success of Blade Runner[2] helped bring Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its author into the public eye. For that reason, after 1982 some editions of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? were branded with the title Blade Runner.

Natural City

Some reviewers have identified similarities between the style and narrative of the 2003 Korean film Natural City and Dick's novel, as well as Blade Runner.[3] The film shares the plot element of android-hunting bounty hunters with the book, as well as a distinctive visual aesthetic said to be reminiscent of Blade Runner.[4]

Audiobook

The novel has been released in audiobook form at least twice. A version was released in 1994 that featured actors such as Matthew Modine and Calista Flockhart.

A new audiobook version was released in 2007 by Random House Audio to coincide with the release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. This version, read by Scott Brick, is unabridged and runs approximately 9.5 hours over eight CDs. This version is a tie-in, using the Blade Runner: The Final Cut film poster and Blade Runner title.[5]

Theater

A stage adaptation of the book, written by Edward Einhorn, ran from November to December 2010 at the 3LD theater in New York.[6]

Comic book

In 1982, a comic book adaptation of the film called A Marvel Comics Super Special: Blade Runner was released by Marvel Comics. It was written by Archie Goodwin with art by Al Williamson, Ralph Reese and Dan Green.

Beginning in 2009, BOOM! Studios started publishing a 24-issue comic book limited series adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, containing the full text of the novel.[7] In April 2010, Boom! Studios announced a follow up comic was in production. Dust To Dust is an eight issue miniseries starting on May 26, 2010 and written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Robert Adler.[8]

Sequels

Three novels intended to serve as sequels to both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner have been published: Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human (1995), Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night (1996), Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon (2000). The official and authorized novels were written by Philip K. Dick's friend, K. W. Jeter. They continue the story of Rick Deckard and attempt to resolve many of the differences between the novel and the film.

Awards

See also

References

  1. ^ This change counteracts a problem common to near-future stories, where the passage of time overtakes the period in which the story is set; for a list of other works that have fallen prey to this phenomenon, see the List of stories set in a future now past.
  2. ^ Sammon, Paul M (1996). Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner. London: Orion Media. pp. 318–329. ISBN 0-06-105314-7. 
  3. ^ Redmond, Sean (2008) [2003] (PDF), Studying Blade Runner, Leighton Buzzard, UK: Auteur, p. 8, ISBN 978-1903663790, OCLC 183267893, http://www.auteur.co.uk/UserFiles/File/Studying%20Blade%20Runner%20short.pdf, retrieved August 15,2012 
  4. ^ "Natural City [Review"]. CineAwesome. March 3, 2012. http://cineawesome.com/5003/natural-city-review/. Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  5. ^ Blade Runner (Movie-Tie-In Edition) by Philip K. Dick - Unabridged Compact Disc Random House, November 27, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7393-4275-6 (0-7393-4275-4)
  6. ^ "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep for the stage". http://www.untitledtheater.com/previous-productions/do-androids-dream-of-electr.html. 
  7. ^ Philip K. Dick Press Release - BOOM! ANNOUNCES DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
  8. ^ BOOM! expands on 'Blade Runner' universe
  9. ^ "1968 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. http://www.worldswithoutend.com/books_year_index.asp?year=1968. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 

Further reading

  • Dick, Philip K. (1968). Do androids dream of electric sheep? New York: Ballantine Books, 1996. ISBN 0-345-40447-5. First published in Philip K. Dick: Electric Shepherd, Norstrilla Press.
    Zelazny, Roger (1975). "Introduction"
  • Scott, Ridley (1982). Blade Runner. Warner Brothers.
  • The Electric Sheep screensaver software is an homage to Do Androids dream of electric sheep?.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Worlds Without End

Criticism

  • Benesch, Klaus. "Technology, Art, and the Cybernetic Body: The Cyborg As Cultural Other in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", Amerikastudien/AmericanStudies, 44:3, 1999, pp. 379–92.
  • Butler, Andrew M. "Reality versus Transience: An Examination of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner", Philip K. Dick: A Celebration [Programme Book], Merrifield, Jeff (ed.) Epping Forest College, Loughton: Connections, 1991.
  • Gallo, Domenico. "Avvampando gli angeli caddero: Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick e il cyberpunk", Lo sguardo degli angeli: Intorno e oltre Blade Runner, Bertetti and Scolari (eds.), Torino: Testo & Immagine, 2002, pp. 206–18.
  • Galvan, Jill. "Entering the Posthuman Collective in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Science-Fiction Studies # 73, 24:3, 1997, pp. 413–29.

External links