I had another great read from Phillip K. Dick, after reading A scanner, darkly, some time ago.
This time, the author creates a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has destroyed most animal life, and replaced them with electric/artificial ones. Most of humanity has emigrated on Mars or different areas of space, after Earth has been devastated by nuclear waste.
One big issue that the people left are facing is the infiltration among them with androids. They act human, feel human and are very hard to distinguish from real humans. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter, a person who hunts down androids to ‘retire’ them. It looks like androids are not allowed to roam freely, because their lack of empathy, they are considered dangerous. To find and test a human from an android, Rick uses a special scale of empathy measurement.
The novel centers around Rick’s hunt of 6 escaped androids, that injured one of his fellow bounty hunters. During this adventure, he meets one android, Rachel, who is a new model, one that is even closer to human kind. He starts to develop feelings for androids, especially for Rachel, whom he finds attractive in a strange way.
We are presented with both point of views, of androids and humans, and this whole metaphor looks a lot like a finger pointing to slavery. I found in androids actual humans that were exploited, harassed and victims of racism. Perhaps Philip K. Dick wanted to emphasize exactly this point.
I can also see the point of view of the androids, who find humans unpredictable and unreliable. However, we are also presented with the limitations: they refuse to fight too much for their life and easily accept their ‘retirement’ fate. The survival instinct is much stronger in sentient life.
We are presented with various ‘future concepts’ that are very scary in some manners, like the special ’emotions device’, ‘mercerism’, in which every human can connect to a device and share emotions with other people. Recorded emotions are played over and over depending on what the people ‘dial’. Because of this, connections with real life become severed and people interact less and less with each other.
We are presented with the concept of ‘chickenhead’, people who did not meet the required IQ level for emigration to Mars, the low level of the society, who has been pushed away and disregarded. Isidore, who is a ‘chickenhead’, helps the androids, until he realizes that they have no empathy whatsoever, once they mutilated a spider, the only other living being that he ever found on the desolated planet.
Deckard manages to kill the androids, only to be able to buy a real goat, which is killed in revenge by Rachel. The mirage of a living being a living animal, is something that maybe we do not appreciate at all during our life.
Again, Philip K. Dick creates a perfect balance of fiction, reality, and possible future, with subtle connections to our reality, to point out things which can make us think and reconsider our actions.
Do androids dream of electric sheep ? is a great novel, highly appreciated.