Book Review: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep - Header

In the run up to Christmas 2014 the BBC screened a 4 part series on the history of Science Fiction (Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction) detailing what has shaped and defined it as a visual medium. During one programme while talking about Robots they spoke about the film Blade Runner, and therefore, traced the iconic film’s lineage back to the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?; a book I’d never heard of but a title which instantly grabbed me. A title which has been stuck in my head ever since.

I have to be honest though and say as it’s been a few months since Christmas, while I remembered the title, I’d forgotten it’s follow up into Blade Runner, and so, when I started to read the novel I’d completely wiped the connection and thus, where it was going or what it was really about. I came to it essentially blind, and if I’m truly honest, thinking it was going to be looking more at the psychological comparison of robot to human, and what it means to be “alive”. Hinted at by its cleverly ponderous title.

Will Smith (I, Robot) - Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep

So, I was slightly taken aback by the story I found. And while memories of Blade Runner came flooding back fairly quickly as I read, I kept making a bigger comparison to the film I, Robot. It’s themes of trust, and robots, and the distinction between human, robot and conciousness all there, as well as a singular cop as the leading character. I’m sure I, Robot has been influenced by the book, and I think I made the connection because of how recently I watched I, Robot,¬†meaning that it was completely fresh in my mind and so easy to protect onto the page.

Looking at the book though, I actually found the story fairly dull and one dimensional. The more I read the more nothing really seemed to happen. It’s very monotonous and I spent large parts wondering whether I was missing some bigger picture. Whether the book was in fact cleverly using metaphor and themantics to camouflage it’s actual meaning. Was I meant to be drawing some deeper meaning from the basic story that I was missing. For want of better phrase, was I failing to read between the lines? Looking at it as a basic, boring story rather than earth shattering discussion on moral questions that everyone else sees?

I think the reason the book has made me feel this way is that it never backs anything up. It presents it idea but it’s doesn’t quantify their meaning so everything just feels a little bit superficial. It lacks the depth to really convince you with any more conviction than its initial point. I don’t think you can go as far as to argue that the book doesn’t trust or truly believe in what it is implying, and thus skipping quickly past things in fear of being found out, but rather, that’s it’s just trying to place too many ideas into its story and simply doesn’t have enough time to expand them all out properly.

Also, because the story is following a singular character as he interacts with the dystopian world around him, everything becomes a bit repetitive as he recycles the same events over and again as the days pass. The natural routine of life simply narrated; but it slows the pace of the book down and highlights just how shallow the story is. Also, I never really befriended any of the characters, or felt any emotional bond to them. It’s a very cold and withdrawn story and it doesn’t help that the motives of the characters is never as clear as you feel it should be, or need it to be. I never really trusted anybody. Everything just adds together in such a way that it just left me pondering why and how situations arose and concluded as they do.

Philip K. Dick - Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep

Having finished the book I feel that it’s a good foundation of a wider story but not really anything more. I can’t say that I really enjoyed reading it and while it kept me interested and the language and writing style of Philip K. Dick is easy to follow, clear to picture and familiar in structure (which considering it was written in the 1960s risked the potential like Graham Greene of feeling outdated and old fashioned), but I just didn’t really get into it. It didn’t keep me turning pages, or unable to put it down. It’s just a story that fails to pack the punch I wish it did and it lacks the intelligence it’s title pretends it has, which is what attracted me to it in the first place.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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