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November 12, 2009

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

by Philip K. Dick

The novel which became Blade Runner. Philip K. Dick’s works have inspired other sci-fi movies such as Total Recall and Minority Report, and we are all familiar with Blade Runner as the sci-fi classic directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford as the bounty hunter tracking down and destroying androids, or replicants, which (who?) have had the audacity to develop a mind of their own.

Not a big sci-fi reader, but a huge fan of the film it inspired, it took me a few pages to get into this novel. Philip K. Dick has an inimitable style with a cult following and, to a reader like myself usually more at home with the likes of Grisham, Hornby or Evans, he is something of an acquired taste. Having persevered – perhaps too strong a word – through the first pages, trying to immerse myself in the universe he creates, where the lines between dreams and reality are blurred, and to accept futuristic devices such as the mood machine as normal, I eventually found myself drawn into the strange world of bounty hunter Rick Deckard.

The characterisation is strong and the themes which address the human conditions are thought-provoking. It is Deckard’s job to hunt down and “retire” six renegade replicants of the Nexus-6 generation responsible for taking human lives and which have begun to think for themselves. All the while he dreams of owning the ultimate status symbol – a real, live animal, as opposed to the life-like mechanical sheep he keeps on the roof of his apartment building and which he pretends is real. And the bounty on six replicants would give him the financial means to see his dream come true.

Like the film it inspired, a classic and just as dark.

James’ out-of-five star rating: ***

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