Okay, confession time: I’ve never seen Blade Runner. Despite being a classic that nearly everyone recommends, I haven’t seen it before. However, I plan on rectifying that problem soon. Right after I read the source material, that is.
By 2021, The World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulcrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep…
They even built humans.
Emigrants to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn’t want to be identified, they just blend in.
Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose jo was to find rogue androids, and to “retire” them. But when cornered, androids tend to fight back, with deadly results.
A Reason to Distrust Androids
Freaking finally, this is a work that gives an actual reason for distrusting androids or andys. Most works that I’ve come across where androids are distrusted or looked down upon don’t really offer a reason beyond “dur they not human” or some sort of religious babble about only God can create life. In this work, andys are incapable of empathy. They don’t care about anybody except for themselves and only help people if they believe they believe the act will benefit them in some way.
Now, I realize that “a lack of empathy” doesn’t really sound that threatening. Philip K. Dick must have realized that also, so he provided a scene where an andy was systematically removing the legs from a spider to see how many it needed to walk. Quite frankly the scene was incredibly disturbing. Don’t misunderstand me. I have no love for spiders, but that doesn’t mean the little guy deserved the level of cruelty he got. It really drove home that people have a legitimate reason to distrust andys in their world.
Anti-Andy or Pro-Andy
Yes, I realize I just made a section about distrusting andys, but honestly those points could be said for plenty of humans as well. In fact, that’s a good way of summing up this book’s perspective on andys: all the faults found in andys could also be applied to humans. The book features plenty of scenes where people are jerks to each other and features one human character that also lacks empathy. In the end, this book makes arguments for both perspectives, anti-andy and pro-andy.
I consider this dual-perspective to be a bonus in the books favor. Most other works take only one perspective, either andys are good or they’re bad. I know I’ve been saying this a lot, but it’s refreshing to see a work that does a different way of doing things.
This dual perspective becomes all the more ??? when I found out Philip K. Dick would often base his works off of Nazi propaganda. I’m not joking or exaggerating. This claim is not in the same vein as saying “Oh, he’s such a grammar nazi” or anything like that. Philip K Dick would base many of his stories off of legitimate propaganda from the Third Reich. This revelation gives a different perspective to plenty of the common elements to this world. When discussing the benefits of owning an android, one lady mentioned the dignity of having an android do a great deal of work for her. Furthermore, androids weren’t just considered “not human”, they were actively considered “less than human”. The same was said of specials, people that had suffered brain damage from the earth’s now radioactive dust. Even the specials would look down on themselves making negative comments or insults. All of these things took on a new meaning to me when I found out that Philip K. Dick would often base his works off of Anti-Semitic or otherwise hate-filled propaganda.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is definitely worth a read. It’s not for the light of heart though since it contains some violent parts along with some cussing. If you can handle that though, go ahead and pick this book up. It gives some insights and perspectives worth thinking about and is also a fun read.