Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep decorative IMG_0186

By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies build incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cat, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men and women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bands them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and ‘retire’ them. But when cornered, androids fight back – with lethal force. 

4/5 stars. Dystopian, Science Fiction, Androids, Empathy, Entropy.

After Rick Deckard’s colleague lands in the hospital after being shot by an android he was supposed to retire, Deckard is meant to take over. Every android he gets puts $1,000 in his pocket which he can use to buy electric animals – or real ones if he could get that much.

These androids need to be retired because they are escapees from Mars. And these ones are a challenge. They are nearly indiscernible from humans.

As Deckard chases them down, he questions his self, his worth, and what it means to be human.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the book the movie Blade Runner is based off of. Now, I never saw the original Blade Runner, but have seen Blade Runner 2049. My thoughts are that the films are only loosely based on this book because of a couple elements:

  • Mercerism: a machine where you link in by holding the handles of the machine and can feel everyone around you. A man, Mercer, climbs a mountain while rocks are being through at him. By linking with the machine, you too become Mercer and the rocks that hit him, hit you, leaving nicks and gashes on your skin. It is an empathy machine and super vital to the development of the book and character, but from what I have heard, is not a part of the movie, but someone correct me if I am wrong.
  • Electric animals: I remember a moment in Blade Runner 2049 when electric animals were mentioned (Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, spilled some whisky or something for his dog and Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, asked if the dog was real). But, from the wikipedia page, the original Blade Runner movie had some sort of synthetic lizard and an origami unicorn –> neither of which were in the book. The idea of electric animals was actually my favorite part of the book.

I am disappointed the movies didn’t capitalize on these unique elements more. The fear of androids and killing of them in the movies is the least original parts of the books and it would have been amazing to see this brought to life.

Mercerism and the electric animals were also essential because they embodied the difference between androids and humans – empathy.

I am glad I read this book when I did because I just got out of a course that talked about entropy (basically, everything tries to revert to chaos and it takes energy to keep things from becoming chaotic). For example, it is easier to just throw your clothes on the ground than sort them into lights and darks and it is easier to leave trash where it falls, easier to let mold grow than clean it, easier to let furniture break than repair it – it takes an effort to make things orderly.

Anyways, this book talked about entropy (called it kipple) and it was fun to apply concepts I learned in class to the book, like Maxwell’s Demon, a demon in a box that sorts mixed atoms into two separate rooms by opening a door. I’ve included a picture of this below, but my reason for including this is because Maxwell’s Demon is said to create order out of disorder – to reverse entropy.

Maxwell_original_demon_120– University of Pittsburg

There are philosophers who have said the Demon is just a problem: you have him do this for you and you are going to have to feed him. He can’t see in the dark so you have to get him a light so he can see the particles. Maybe his eyes will get old so you will have to get him glasses, the point being that all these things add up and spiral out of control, that chaos cannot be controlled forever. I think these are some of the exact points Dick was getting to in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The concepts in this book were incredible. Even though it was published in 1968, many of the ideas are still incredibly fresh and this is one where you miss out on a ton if you just watch the movie. They are concepts that make you think about the world.

The pacing is pretty good for most of the book, but the first chapter is dreadfully slow. Like, why-am-I-wasting-my-time-on-this-piece-of-junk slow. But it will pick up soon enough and the concepts are worth it!

The characters aren’t my favorite, I must admit. With empathy being such a vital part of the story, you’d think there would be a ton of emotion in the characters, but it was oddly absent. Also, a few times I got incredibly confused because characters would be talking and then suddenly someone is ready to shoot someone and I wouldn’t catch what in the dialogue caused someone to pull a gun. It was like the emotions of people weren’t shown enough through the dialogue or movement that when something happened plot wise, it was surprising in a bad way because I hadn’t been prepared.

Also, the dialogue did a lot of this formatting:

  • “And I,” Deckard said, “really want a hot dog.”
  • “What is,” Racheal said, “a hot dog?”
  • “A hot dog,” Deckard said, “is basically a long sausage on a sausage shaped bun.”

I mean, this formatting can be great. It is useful for making a phrase more important and dropping some BIG INFORMATION, but it was used so often, the dialogue felt cluttered and clunky.

This isn’t a book you sit down and read in a sitting and have all the feels for. This is one you want to take your time with and think about and ask yourself about human nature and what that might be in the future.

And then think about how this book was written – 1968.

I’m just going to throw dates out here to just ponder the thoughts of the mind:

  • First computer was invented in 1936
  • First laptop in 1981 (it weighed 23 pounds)
  • Internet in 1983 (but what we call the internet didn’t really come about until 1990)
  • Smartphones were created in 1992

I have no idea how someone could think up robots being as smart as humans, or even think it possible for robots to be superior to humans before the invention of the internet.

Get this book, read it slowly, think about empathy and entropy because, man, is it fun.

Find it on Amazon here.