I’m a big robot fan. I always find myself drawn to them as characters and enjoy stories about them, so I was keen to try Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? due to it being an earlier exploration of the concept.
Set in the ‘future’ (the 90s), the Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war and humans have mostly abandoned the husk of a planet to go and live on Mars… but some remain. Pretty much all animals are extinct, so pets are really valuable and considered a status symbol. Those who can’t afford them buy identical android copies, but keep it quiet and pretend they’re real. Speaking of identical android copies, there are humanoid androids who are generally treated as second-class citizens.
There are two main characters: one is Rick Deckard, a police bounty hunter who comes after ‘rogue’ androids. The other is John Isidore, a man with a low-level of intelligence due to exposure to radiation, who encounters a group of other androids on the run. It’s probably not unsurprising that I preferred John out of the two of them, because I felt he was probably the more emotional and human of the two, while Rick came across as quite a blank slate who just floats through the events of the book. Perhaps this was very clever and intentional. Perhaps Rick was just badly written. That’s for you to decide.
Overall, it’s a pretty bleak book, even without the nuclear war and mass extinctions in the backstory. A lot of scenes in it were very distressing. A lot of innocent people are murdered in cold blood. It does a good job of blurring the line between android life and human life, at least. At times, it even gets very interesting and philosophical too.
Towards the end, things get very strange. It’s not very clear what really happens as the plot comes to a close, leaving room for theories and interpretation. It’s good and it’s bad in that respect – I do wish that there had been a little more closure. That goes for a lot of things. I’d like to have known what happened to the characters. I’d like to have known more about some of the side characters. But though I wish it had been fleshed out more, I still found it to be a good read and an interesting piece of sci-fi history.