Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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By his depiction of an advanced line of renegade androids PKD examines what is human. His ‘andys’ appear to be so because they partake of the usual human pastimes; of eating, drinking, and having sex. Moreover, they are emotionally intelligent beings who are capable of joy, self-pity, pathos, blackmail, betrayal, selfishness, and lots more.

However we see that the androids are not human because they lack empathy, which is of critical importance to the author. It is the defining humane characteristic; the ‘gift’ that blurs the boundaries between hunter and victim, the successful and defeated. This means they will pay little mind to mutilating an arachnid to satisfy an intellectual curiosity.

Lack of empathy also means the androids have no appreciation for Earth’s popular religion, ‘Mercerism.’ The androids have no understanding of the human desire to be part of something outside of themselves that is communal, spiritual, and not a creature of logic; they seek to discredit it. For me, the passages dealing with PKD’s fictional religion were the most interesting, as it examines the appeal, need, and function of faith in a more cynical and technologically advanced society.

I have no complaints about the way the book is written. It is in a close third person style, with dialogue which feels naturalistic (I read PKD enjoyed the French realists such as Balzac and this is apparent in the novel’s dialogue.) Plotwise, it can be reduced to a bounty hunting, futuristic police procedural thriller with a high body count; and so there are also many visceral pleasures, along with the cerebral. Overall I enjoyed it.

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