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

Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Format: Paperback
Written: 1968
Published: 1972

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a science fiction novel set in the future world of 1992. Colonisation of our solar system has been accomplished, which is fortunate due to the devastation that war has brought to Earth. Part of the colonisation effort involves providing a free android to every colonist who migrates away from the dying mother planet. Unfortunately, the androids in question are not always happy with the arrangement. Our protagonist, Rick Decard, is a bounty hunter charged with tracking down escaped androids and killing them.

This book improves dramatically if you ignore the proposed timeline, which was ambitious given the 25 year window between when the book was written and when it was set. Technology has reached impressive heights. Space colonisation is successful, machines regulate mood according to the programming of the user, android technology has progressed to the point where it is almost impossible to tell the difference between man and machine, and hovercrafts are the main form of transport.

The writing style is easy to settle into, and does not get in the way of the story. We are immediately introduced to the personality of the main characters, the values of the world, and the general premise without any info dumps. It is an excellent grounding for the story, which makes it easy to race through the pages.

Both sides of the conflict are well represented as the novel explores concepts of humanity and empathy. We are able to meet characters before we know whether they are human or android, which gives us the ability to make our own judgements first. In many ways the sequence of this novel is representative of the world. This episode is significant in the protagonist’s experience due to the size and complexity, but the underlying power balance remains the same.

While the quality of being just another few days in an incredible life lends a peculiar type of suspense that works well for the novel, it deprives the ending of a resolution to a subplot. I won’t go into many details, because spoilers are unnecessary, but I will agree with the advertising on my novel that the book ends “in a jolting climax that leaves the reader very thoughtful indeed”. I have been thoughtful for days, coming up with dozens of ways that I would have fixed my biggest gripe with the ending.

I had hoped that the unresolved thread was intended to be addressed in a sequel. Unfortunately, the only subsequent work on this world appears to be a result of its adaptation into the movie Blade Runner. The sequels were authorised but written by someone else many years later. I don’t believe in novels written decades later after a movie has been released count for this purpose.

My copy of this book is 183 pages long. I give the first 169 of those pages 5 out of 5. If you haven’t guessed by now, the conclusion to this novel was unfortunate in my opinion. Therefore, I give this book an overall rating of 3 out of 5 pages.

Yes, I averaged the numbers; the ending irritated me that much.

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