Thursday, June 10, 2010

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

Book Details
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Paperback, 272 pages
1987, Del Rey
ISBN: 0345350472

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!

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a classic post-apocalyptic thriller. It was the vague (from what I hear) basis for the movie Blade Runner that I did see, but don't remember one scene from. Obviously the book is much more memorable.

Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter, paid to kill androids that are living illegally on Earth. This is more difficult that you'd expect since the only real difference between androids and humans is the ability to feel empathy. As you fake an empathetic response to situations, he employs a strange lie detector type test to spot the androids. This works well for him until a woman beats the test. Or does she? This uncertainty sets of a chain-reaction of doubt in Deckard that follows him throughout his hunt for the remaining androids.

Mercerism is the official (and as far as I could tell only) religion on earth. It is a shared empathy-based religion where followers can "commune" with their god Wilbur Mercer through a tool called an empathy box. Another part of the religion is the owning of animals. As most animals are extinct, real animals are very expensive. Some people resort to owning fake electric animals and pretend their animals are real so others don't think bad of them, hence the "Electric Sheep" in the title. Empathy is a huge issue in this book and once Deckard finds that he feels empathy for androids his entire world is shaken.

Mood organs are owned and used to regulate a person's mood. Any mood (out of hundreds of possibilities) can be chosen for each specific occasion in life. There are also hovercars, a classic futuristic staple. This book is truly and completely science fiction oriented.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is bizarre, but in an entertaining, unexpected way. You don't see the plot twists coming because you don't know what this future Earth has to offer. You could go as far as to suggest that a lot of the moral and ethical dilemmas presented here are social commentary on the world around us, but the book is thought-provoking enough without reading anything more into the situations.


Philip K. Dick's website


  1. This sounds like an odd one.....

  2. I've read this one three times! It's a little convoluted, but as you say, very thought-provoking.

  3. I own this and started it once, but got bored and put it down. Perhaps I should give it another try.

  4. I have never heard of this book but I love the title!

  5. Based on your description, this sounds so much richer and more interesting than the movie adaptation.