This is one of those situations where the movie adaptation is just barely related to the book. Here's what is the same: in a dystopian future, bounty hunter Rick Deckard "retires" androids. (Actually, they're not even called androids in the movie; they're "replicants.") Here's what is different: everything else. Imdb.com claims that neither director Ridley Scott nor screenwriter David Webb Peoples actually read this novel. Judging by the resulting film, I am not surprised.
The title of the book doesn't even make sense if you're only familiar with the movie. In fact, for a long time Hud thought the book was called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? which would seem much more logical based on Blade Runner. However, there's a very good reason that the book's title refers to "sheep" rather than "sleep," due to one of two huge and inter-related themes that (to my recollection) are not even hinted at in the movie.
First, most animal populations in the world have been decimated and many species are extinct. The remaining animals are highly prized and very expensive, but owning at least one animal is a necessity due to the second main theme: an empathy-based religion called Mercerism, in which the apathetic androids can't participate. These aspects add a whole new dimension to the story laid out in the movie.
|Don't buy this version!|
When I got the real version of the book I was blown away by how much better it was. I mean, I knew it would be an improvement, but I hadn't guessed how amazing the difference would be. What I had at first mistaken for a flat and featureless story was suddenly so enriched. Not to the extent of Olga Grushin's vivid descriptions in my previous read, but the story's world was so much more fully realized. And, like Grushin and Kafka before her, this book gives a good and welcome dose of weird.
I read this book on my Kindle (a fun toy that I've enjoyed so far, except that I can only manage to get my hands on it when my middle child is either at school or asleep; she tends to commandeer it the rest of the time). However, this book did give me one complaint about the Kindle. I understand why there are no page numbers (since you can change the font size, which would alter the pagination), but the end of this book jumped out at me before I was ready for it. The gauge at the bottom of the "page" showed that 2% of the book remained to be read, and then BAM, the end. In a conventional book, I would have been more aware of how close I was to the last page.
I found the following paragraph on imdb and thought it was interesting:
Philip K. Dick first came up with the idea for his novel 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' in 1962, when researching 'The Man in the High Castle' which deals with the Nazis conquering the planet in the 1940s. Dick had been granted access to archived World War II Gestapo documents in the University of California at Berkley, and had come across diaries written by S.S. men stationed in Poland, which he found almost unreadable in their casual cruelty and lack of human empathy. One sentence in particular troubled him: "We are kept awake at night by the cries of starving children." Dick was so horrified by this sentence that he reasoned there was obviously something wrong with the man who wrote it. This led him to hypothesize that Nazism in general was a defective group mind, a mind so emotionally flawed that the word human could not be applied to them; their lack of empathy was so pronounced that Dick reasoned they couldn't be referred to as human beings, even though their outward appearance seemed to indicate that they were human. The novel sprang from this.In my ridiculous stack of TBR is another novel by Dick that I'd never heard of before entitled Voices from the Street, which I am looking forward to reading. Which other books of his do you recommend?