I remember the tedium of shelving a cart full of books each morning as a library aide in high school. Shoving along, I’d pick up the next book and scan the shelves for the right range of codes and stick the book in the right place. This job became for me like stocking candy in the candy store. My job was only to stock, never to taste, because there were always more books to shelve and after that, homework to do.
But this is also where my bucket list of books began. I saw titles I knew, just knew from anywhere, and so many of them piqued my interest. A book can take you anywhere because its only limit is what can be expressed in words and thought. Where is the limit to what you can imagine? Surely, I don’t know.
Anyway, one of the books that made the list was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, a novel that certainly was nothing like I expected. First off, I learned it was made into a movie, Bladerunner, which I then found was not that movie where Wesley Snipes plays a vampire (Blade Trinity). Bladerunner has Harrison Ford and is famous for being awesome film noir, which honestly, I like in theory and hate in reality.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is to me a passing-fair post-apocalyptic book about a married bounty hunter battling despair because he hates his job and lives in a half-abandoned post-nuclear-holocaust Earth. He wears a lead codpiece to guard against sterility from the leftover radiation and owns an electric sheep because his real sheep died, and real animals have become expensive status symbols since they were almost wiped out. Does this sound like Bladerunner to you?
The basic plots are similar: chasing androids, the androids themselves, the questions and testing that are the only way to distinguish human and android…But many of the details that are kept lose their meaning because the context of the ruined world and its particulars are gone.
The book’s main point, preserved in the movie, is to question what makes us human and not machine, and some of that is accomplished quite well. But though I do love post-apocalyptic stories, film noir is not for me, and neither is its dark literary companion, absurdism. The post-apocalyptic environment of Do Androids Dream seems to force cultural practices to absurd extremes, and I find Bladerunner depressing.
Before I pronounce my last critical statements, I’d like to point out that I’m no film expert. Reading the book was a long time coming, and it took me to a whole othe world. Despite my own preferences, I still found Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to be good fodder for that age-old debate about our humanity, and Bladerunner was very good for a dark, depressing movie.
Anyone care to weigh in on either the book or the movie? Has anyone out there even read the book? Tell us what you think.