Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Cover of first hardback edition
|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Genre||Science fiction, philosophical novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human|
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (retitled Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in some later printings) is a science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. First published in 1968, the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, where Earth's life has been greatly damaged by nuclear global war. Most animal species are endangered or extinct from extreme radiation poisoning, so that owning an animal is now a sign of status and empathy, an attitude encouraged towards animals. The book served as the primary basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner.
The main plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who is faced with killing ("retiring") six escaped Nexus-6 model androids, while a secondary plot follows John Isidore, a man of sub-par IQ who aids the fugitive androids. In connection with Deckard's mission, the novel explores the issue of what it is to be human. Unlike humans, the androids are claimed to possess no sense of empathy.
In post-apocalyptic 1992 (or, in later editions, 2021), after "World War Terminus," the Earth's dust-irradiated atmosphere leads the United Nations to encourage mass emigrations to off-world colonies to preserve humanity's genetic integrity, with the incentive of free personal androids: robot servants identical to humans. On Earth, owning real live animals is a status symbol for keeping up with the Joneses, because of mass extinctions and the accompanying cultural push for greater empathy that has motivated a technology-based religion called Mercerism. Poor people can only afford realistic-looking electric animals, including Deckard, who owns a robotic black-faced sheep. Mercerism uses "empathy boxes" to simultaneously link users to a collective virtual reality of communal suffering, centered on a martyr-like character, Wilbur Mercer, who eternally climbs up a hill while being hit with crashing stones.
Bounty hunter Rick Deckard signs on to a new police mission to earn enough money to buy a live animal to replace his electric sheep, seeking greater existential fulfillment for himself and his depressed wife, Iran. The mission involves hunting down ("retiring") a group of six Nexus-6 androids that violently went rogue after their creation by the Rosen Association. Deckard visits Rosen headquarters in Seattle to confirm the validity of a question-and-answer empathy test: a method for identifying any androids posing as humans. Deckard is greeted by Rachael Rosen, who quickly fails his test. Rachael attempts to bribe Deckard into silence, but he verifies that she is indeed a Nexus-6 android used by Rosen to try to discredit the test.
Deckard soon meets a Soviet police contact, who turns out to be one of the disguised Nexus-6 renegades. Deckard retires the android, then flies off to retire his next target: an opera-singing Nexus-6. This android, however, has him arrested by a police officer he has never met and detained at a police department he has never known. At this strange police station, Deckard's worldview is shaken when an official named Garland accuses Deckard himself of being an android. After a series of increasingly mysterious revelations at the police station, Deckard for the first time ponders the ethical and philosophical questions his line of work raises regarding android intelligence, empathy, and what it really means to be human. Phil Resch, the station's bounty hunter, finally gets testing equipment to determine if his coworkers as well as Deckard are androids or humans. Finally, Garland reveals that the entire station is a sham, completely staffed by androids, including Garland himself. Resch shoots Garland in the head and escapes with Deckard; together, they find and arrest the android opera singer, which Resch suddenly, brutally retires in cold blood. Although Resch and Deckard are now collaborating, each still worries that the other, or himself, might be an android. Deckard at last administers the empathy test to himself and Resch alike, which confirms that Resch is just a particularly ruthless human being, and that Deckard is also human.
Only three of the Nexus-6 android fugitives remain, and one, Pris Stratton, moves in to an apartment building whose only other inhabitant is John R. Isidore, a radioactively-damaged, intellectually slow human classified as a "special." The lonely Isidore attempts to befriend her. The final two rogue androids visit the building, and they all together plan how to survive. Meanwhile, Deckard with his reward money buys Iran an authentic Nubian goat. After quitting work, Deckard is pulled back in after being notified of a new lead and experiencing a vision of the prophet-like Mercer confusingly telling him to proceed though his mission is immoral. Deckard calls back upon Rachael Rosen, since her own insider knowledge as an android will aid his investigation. Rachael reveals that she and Pris are the same exact model, meaning that he will have to shoot down an android that looks just like her. Rachael coaxes Deckard to have sex, after which they mutually confess their love, but she reveals she has slept with multiple other bounty hunters in order to dissuade them from their missions. Deckard abruptly deserts her.
Isidore develops friendships with the three android fugitives, and they all watch a television program giving definitive evidence that Mercerism is a hoax. Suddenly Deckard enters the building, with supernatural warning visions of Mercer appearing to both him and Isidore. Deckard becomes legally justified in shooting down all three androids without testing them, since they attack him first, and he successfully does so. Isidore is devastated, and Deckard is soon rewarded for a record number of Nexus-6 kills in one day. When Deckard returns home, he finds Iran grieving because Rachael Rosen recently showed up and murdered their goat.
Deckard goes to an uninhabited, obliterated region of Oregon to reflect. He climbs a hill when he is hit by falling rocks and realizes this is an experience similar to Mercer's. Rushing back to his car, he stumbles abruptly upon a toad, an animal previously thought to be extinct. With newfound joy, Deckard brings the toad home, where Iran quickly discovers that it is just a robot. While Deckard is unhappy, he decides that he at least prefers to know the truth: whether the toad is real or artificial.
In 1982, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples' loose cinematic adaptation became the film Blade Runner, which was directed by Ridley Scott. Following the international success of the film, the title Blade Runner was also used for some later editions of the novel.
As part of their Dangerous Visions dystopia series, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a two-part adaptation of the novel. It was produced and directed by Sasha Yevtushenko from an adaption by Jonathan Holloway. It stars James Purefoy as Rick Deckard and Jessica Raine as Rachael Rosen. The episodes were originally broadcast on Sunday 15 June and 22 June 2014.
A new audiobook version was released in 2007 by Random House Audio to coincide with the release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. This version, read by Scott Brick, is unabridged and runs approximately 9.5 hours over eight CDs. This version is a tie-in, using the Blade Runner: The Final Cut film poster and Blade Runner title.
A stage adaptation of the book, written by Edward Einhorn, ran from November 18 to December 10, 2010 at the 3LD Art & Technology Center in New York and made its West Coast Premiere on September 13, playing until October 10, 2013 at the Sacred Fools Theater Company in Los Angeles.
BOOM! Studios published a 24-issue comic book limited series based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? containing the full text of the novel illustrated by artist Tony Parker. The comic garnered a nomination for "Best New Series" from the 2010 Eisner Awards.
Prequel Comic book
In May 2010 BOOM! Studios began serializing an eight issue prequel subtitled Dust To Dust and written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Robert Adler. The story took place in the days immediately after World War Terminus.
Three novels intended to serve as sequels to both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner have been published:
- Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human (1995),
- Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night (1996),
- Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon (2000).
These official and authorized sequels were written by Dick's friend, K. W. Jeter. They continue the story of Rick Deckard and attempt to reconcile many of the differences between the novel and the film.
Critical reception of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has been overshadowed by its 1982 Ridley Scott film adaptation, Blade Runner. Of those critics who focus on the novel, several nest it predominantly in the history of Philip K. Dick’s body of work. In particular, Dick’s 1972 speech “The Human and the Android” is cited in this connection. Jill Galvan calls attention to the correspondence between Dick’s portrayal of the narrative’s dystopian, polluted, man-made setting and the description Dick gives in his speech of the increasingly artificial and potentially sentient or “quasi-alive” environment of his present. The essential point in Dick’s speech, for Galvan, is that “[o]nly by recognizing how [technology] has encroached upon our understanding of ‘life’ can we come to full terms with the technologies we have produced” (414). As a “bildungsroman of the cybernetic age,” Galvan maintains, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? follows one person’s gradual acceptance of the new reality. Christopher Palmer emphasizes Dick’s speech to bring to attention the increasingly dangerous risk of humans becoming “mechanical” (225). “Androids threaten reduction of what makes life valuable, yet promise expansion or redefinition of it, and so do aliens and gods” (ibid). Gregg Rickman cites another, earlier and lesser known Dick novel that also deals with androids, We Can Build You, asserting that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? can be read as a sequel.
In a departure from the tendency among most critics to examine the novel in relation to other texts by Dick, Klaus Benesch examined Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? primarily in connection with Lacan’s essay on the mirror stage. There, Lacan claims that the formation and reassurance of the self depends on the construction of an Other through imagery, beginning with a double as seen in the mirror. The androids, Benesch argues, perform a doubling function similar to the mirror image of the self, but they do this on a social, not individual, scale. Therefore, human anxiety about androids express uncertainty about human identity and society. Benesch draws on Kathleen Woodward's emphasis on the body to illustrate the shape of human anxiety about an android Other. The debate over distinctions between human and machine, Woodward asserts, usually fail to acknowledge the presence of the body. “If machines are invariably contrived as technological prostheses that are designed to amplify the physical faculties of the body, they are also built, according to this logic, to outdo, to surpass the human in the sphere of physicality altogether” (Benesch, 391).
Awards and honors
- 1968 – Nebula Award nominee
- 1998 – Locus Poll Award, All-Time Best SF Novel before 1990 (Place: 51)
- Note: This change counteracts a problem common to near-future stories, where the passage of time overtakes the period in which the story is set; for a list of other works that have fallen prey to this phenomenon, see the List of stories set in a future now past)
- Sammon, Paul M (1996). Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner. London: Orion Media. pp. 318–329. ISBN 0-06-105314-7.
- "BBC Radio 4 - Dangerous Visions, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Episode 2". bbc.co.uk. BBC Radio 4. 28 Jun 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
- Blade Runner (Movie-Tie-In Edition) by Philip K. Dick - Unabridged Compact Disc Random House, November 27, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7393-4275-6 (0-7393-4275-4)
- "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Untitled Theater Company #61. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Sacred Fools Theater Company. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- Philip K. Dick Press Release - BOOM! ANNOUNCES DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
- Heller, Jason (April 9, 2010). "Eisner Award nominees announced". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
- Langshaw, Mark. "BOOM! expands on 'Blade Runner' universe". Digital Spy.
- "BOOM! Studios publishes 'Electric Sheep' prequel". Tyrell-corporation.pp.se. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
- Galvan, Jill (1997). "Entering the Postman Collective: Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Science Fiction Studies 24 (3): 413–429.
- Palmer, Christopher (2003). Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern. Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press. p. 259.
- Rickman, Gregg (1995). "What Is This Sickness?": "Schizophrenia" and We Can Build You. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 143–157.
- Benesch, Klaus (1999). "Technology, Art, and the Cybernetic Body: The Cyborg as Cultural Other in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" and Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"". Amerikastudien/American Studies 44 (3 Body/Art): 379–392.
- Woodward, Kathleen (1997). "Prosthetic Emotions". In Hoffman, Gerhard. Emotions in the Postmodern. Heidelberg: Alfred Hornung. pp. 75–107.
- "1968 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-27.
- Dick, Philip K. (1996) . Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-40447-5. First published in Philip K. Dick: Electric Shepherd, Norstrilla Press.
Zelazny, Roger (1975). "Introduction"
- Scott, Ridley (1982). Blade Runner. Warner Brothers.
- The Electric Sheep screensaver software is an homage to Do Androids dream of electric sheep?.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Worlds Without End
- Benesch, Klaus (1999). "Technology, Art, and the Cybernetic Body: The Cyborg As Cultural Other in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". Amerikastudien/American Studies 44 (3): 379–392. JSTOR 41157479.
- Butler, Andrew M. (1991). "Reality versus Transience: An Examination of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner". In Merrifield, Jeff. Philip K. Dick: A Celebration (Programme Book). Epping Forest College, Loughton: Connections.
- Gallo, Domenico (2002). "Avvampando gli angeli caddero: Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick e il cyberpunk". In Bertetti; Scolari. Lo sguardo degli angeli: Intorno e oltre Blade Runner (in Italian). Torino: Testo & Immagine. pp. 206–218. ISBN 88-8382-075-4.
- Galvan, Jill (1997). "Entering the Posthuman Collective in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Science-Fiction Studies 24 (3): 413–429. JSTOR 4240644.
- Niv, Tal (2014). "The Return of a Terrifying and Wonderful Creation On Our Future and Our Present". Haaretz. (Hebrew) Critical analysis of the 2014 edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at the Internet Book List
- Complete publication history and cover gallery