Thursday, July 21, 2016

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

I found "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" to be one of the most riveting pieces of science fiction storytelling. Granted it has some flaws but the way it has juxtaposed numerous (and scarily believable) science fiction ideas with the question of 'what is empathy & what it means to be human' is; simply put; amazing.

The story paints a very dark & depressing future for the Earth and mankind. It is a future where almost all humans have emigrated to Mars because of after effects of a global war and some of the surviving humans on Earth are suffering from horrible radioactive abnormalities. It is a future where a multitude of animal & bird species have become extinct and where artificial intelligent beings with an organic human exoskeleton or 'the androids' are amongst us. 'Rick Deckard', the protagonist, is tasked with 'retiring' i.e. killing six 'rogue' androids which have escaped from Mars colonies to Earth.

Even though the premise is essentially an action story, Philip K. Dick (PKD) has woven elements of philosophy & identity crisis very beautifully. A number of future contraptions/concepts described in the book seem like something the future human generations will build, but at the same time these 'devices' are used as a great metaphor to our thought process and how we perceive ourselves and our place in this world. A collective empathy based pseudo religion (PKD calls it 'Mercerism') seems like a scary not-too-distant future considering the effect social networks have on our moods & emotions even today.

That being said, I do feel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" loses steam in some of its plot-points. Some things feel rushed while other things get introduced and they don't really amount to anything in the whole scheme of things. But these complaints are few & to me it did not reduce the quality of the book. Similar to PKD's other work, this story also has a trippy, hallucinatory undertone at a couple of places. 

All in all, a must-read if you are into science fiction - 5/5 from me.

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