Sunday, May 31, 2015

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1966)

This is the novel by Philip K. Dick that served as the starting point and majority framework for the movie Blade Runner. Presenting another version of the story—the first, obviously—it only muddies already muddy waters further. The question of Rick Deckard as unknowing android is much more clear—it's a point explicitly raised and not altogether dismissed. The heroic and tragic android Roy Baty is not nearly so clear-cut a character here. He's no more moral than Deckard anyway, where he is clearly the greater man (being) in the movie. In fact, Dick's whole point about empathy and lack of it is only donned as a somewhat minor plot point in the movie—technobabble explanation for administering the detection test—whereas late in the novel Dick goes off on a horrific scene with a spider to show us exactly what lack of empathy looks like, and it does not reflect well on the androids at all (at the same time it's Dick's way of demonstrating to us our own humanity). It is interesting to see for once Dick's legend eclipsed by arguably an even greater legend in Blade Runner, but it remains a solid Dick novel, from the period he was really entering into his own. Humans have never been "good" to androids, but that doesn't mean they are not a menace to humans, a point Dick weaves in and around quite expertly. There is a wonderful, classic Dick dislocation when it is revealed that the androids are secretly operating a phony alternate police force within San Francisco (not Los Angeles, note). Indeed, the androids are quite sinister and have made much further inroads against humans in Dick's novel. It doesn't look at all good for the humans in the end. As for the androids, due to technical difficulties (not nefarious human programming, note), they are limited to four-year lifespans, a casual but compelling existential conception. Otherwise, as in the movie, they just want what everybody wants—life and more of it, with all its pleasure and love and fulfillment. To summarize: Do Androids? is a very fine Dick novel, and Blade Runner is a very fine movie. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

In case it's not at the library.

1 comment:

  1. Great term, "Dick dislocation". Perfectly describes one of the best things he pulls off in his writing. You didn't mention Mercerism ... oh well, neither did Blade Runner :-).