‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’ Sci-Fi Book Highlight

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick wowed the imagination when his name appeared on director Ridley Scott’s 1982 cyberpunk flick Blade Runner. The basis for this movie was Dick’s 1968 sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, but I contend that the book is so different it could be remade and no one would make the connection.

GoodReads describes the synopsis as follows,

“It was January 2021, and Rick Deckard had a license to kill. Somewhere among the hordes of humans out there, lurked several rogue androids. Deckard’s assignment–find them and then…”retire” them. Trouble was, the androids all looked exactly like humans, and they didn’t want to be found!”

The movie adapts several plot points from the book. It takes place in a not-so-far-off future. Harrison Ford portrays a troubled Rick who is struggling in this weary world in his role as a Blade Runner, hunting down rogue androids. Rachel, portrayed by Sean Young, does not realize she is an android while the psychotic Pris, played by Daryl Hannah wants revenge on the humans who left her on Mars to rot. Rutger Hauer plays Roy Batty, the leader of the escaped androids whose lack of empathy causes death on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

However, the similarities seem to end with the placement and with certain characters’ names. While Rick does struggle with his job, he is in a strained marriage and turns to Rachel for that lost affection, but soon realizes how fake the relationship is with her. Roy, called Beaty in the novel, is not psychotic. He simply wants to blend in and avoid conflict if possible. Pris is not psychotic and is identical to Rachel, exposing their fakery.

Please know, in no way, shape, or form am I saying Blade Runner is a bad film. In fact, I regard it as a classic of sci-fi, though its “pioneering cyberpunk” tagline is exaggerated. In comparison to the novel, I am merely commenting on the themes of the film versus those in the novel.

While the movie sought to ask the question, “do these androids have souls,” the novel asks a very different question. The book asks, “does technology make us lose our humanity?” In my opinion, this is a much more nuanced question. Rick struggles with his identity, not because of hints he could be an android, but because he relies on the very same technology that is used to build the androids he hunts. Is Rachel no different than the electric pet he and his wife share? If so, does caring for them make him somehow empathetic to androids? Has his reliance on technology replaced his love for what it means to be human?

Philip K. Dick is a master of writing inner monologues. He does not waste time with exposition dumps but touches on the emotion of the moment. It makes you connect with Rick on a deeper level. No doubt, the film’s editors noted that and tried to duplicate that for the theatrical version of Blade Runner, but Harrison Ford sabotaging that somewhat ruined it. The cuts where Rick’s narration is removed are much better.

Not so with the novel. Rick’s inner monologue shows the struggle he has within him on what it means to be a human and how the reliance on technology is just a bandaid on a problem that is within. I found that to be very compelling. Dick’s novel is incredibly well-written and has a lot to say about the subject matter.

Honestly, you could adapt Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep as a standalone novel and after a few name changes and a new setting, it would be a totally different movie.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my reviews for Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers Volume 5 and The Stars Asunder. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.

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