Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Cover of first hardback edition
|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Genre||Science fiction, philosophical fiction|
|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, and many elements and themes from it were used in its 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049.
The main plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who is tasked with "retiring" (i.e. killing) 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 and whether empathy is a purely human ability.
In post-apocalyptic 1992 (2021 in later editions), after "World War Terminus", the Earth's radioactively polluted atmosphere leads the United Nations to encourage mass emigrations to off-world colonies to preserve humanity's genetic integrity. This comes with the incentive of free personal androids: robot servants identical to humans. The characters and text refer to these androids (or "andys") variously as "robots," "machines," and "programmed," but it is later made clear that they are constructed of organic materials so similar to a human's that only a tedious "bone marrow analysis" can independently prove the difference. To save time in identifying incognito androids, various polygraph-style tests have been devised.
The Rosen Association manufactures the androids on Mars, but certain androids violently rebel and escape to the underpopulated Earth where they hope to remain undetected. Therefore, American and Soviet police departments remain vigilant, keeping bounty-hunting officers on duty.
On Earth, owning real live animals has become a fashionable status symbol, because of mass extinctions and the accompanying cultural push for greater empathy. High-status animals, such as horses, cost far more than low-status animals. However poor people can only afford realistic-looking robot imitations of live animals. Rick Deckard, for example, owns an electric black-faced sheep. These artificial animals appear and feel identical to real animals, but are described as "electric," having "circuits" and hidden access "control panels," and requiring "repairs." Compared to the android robots, Deckard regards these electric animals as "a kind of vastly inferior robot."
The trend of increased empathy has coincidentally motivated a new technology-based religion called Mercerism. Mercerism uses "empathy boxes" to link users simultaneously to a virtual reality of collective suffering, centered on a martyr-like character, Wilbur Mercer, who eternally climbs up a hill while being hit with crashing stones. Acquiring high-status animal pets and linking in to empathy boxes appear to be the only two ways that humans can attain existential fulfillment.
Police department bounty hunter Rick Deckard is assigned to "retire" (kill) six androids of the highly intelligent Nexus-6 model. These androids are difficult to detect, but Deckard hopes to earn enough bounty money to buy a live animal to replace his lone electric sheep. Deckard visits the Rosen Association's headquarters in Seattle to confirm the latest empathy test's accuracy. The test appears to give a false positive on (CEO) Eldon Rosen's niece, Rachael, meaning the police have potentially been executing human beings. Rosen attempts to blackmail Deckard to get him to drop the case, but Deckard retests Rachael and determines that Rachael is, indeed, an android.
Deckard soon meets a Soviet police contact who turns out to be one of the Nexus-6 renegades in disguise. Deckard kills the android, then flies off to kill his next target: an opera singer android. When administering the empathy test on her, she calls the police. Failing to recognize Deckard as a bounty hunter, they arrest and detain him at a station he has never heard of, housed by officers whom he is surprised never to have met. An official named Garland accuses Deckard himself of being an android with implanted memories. After a series of mysterious revelations at the station, Deckard ponders the ethical and philosophical questions his line of work raises regarding android intelligence, empathy, and what it means to be human. Garland reveals that the entire station is a sham, claiming that even Phil Resch, the station's resident bounty hunter, is an android. Resch shoots Garland in the head, escaping with Deckard back to the opera singer, whom Resch brutally kills in cold blood. Deckard uses the empathy test on Resch to confirm that he is actually human and then on himself, finding that he has a sense of empathy for the androids.
Deckard buys his wife Iran an authentic Nubian goat with his reward money. His supervisor insists that he visit an abandoned apartment building where the three remaining Nexus-6 android fugitives likely are. Experiencing a vision of the prophet-like Mercer confusingly telling him to proceed, despite the immorality of the mission, Deckard calls on Rachael Rosen again, since her knowledge of androids will aid his investigation. Rachael declines to help, but reluctantly agrees to meet Deckard at a hotel in exchange for him abandoning the case. At the hotel, she reveals that one of the fugitive androids is the same exact model as herself, meaning that he will have to shoot down an android that looks just like her. Rachael coaxes Deckard into sex, after which they confess their love for one another. However, she reveals she has slept with many bounty hunters, having been programmed to do so in order to dissuade them from their missions. He threatens to kill her, but holds back at the last moment. He leaves to the abandoned apartment building.
Meanwhile, the three remaining Nexus-6 android fugitives plan how they can outwit Deckard. The building's only other inhabitant, John R. Isidore, a radioactively damaged and intellectually below-average human, attempts to befriend them, but is shocked when they torture a rare spider he's found. They all watch a television program giving definitive evidence that Mercerism is a hoax. Deckard enters the building, with strange, supernatural premonitions of Mercer notifying him of an ambush. Since they attack him first, Deckard is legally justified as he shoots down all three androids without previously testing them. Isidore is devastated, and Deckard is soon rewarded for a record number of Nexus-6 kills in a single day. When Deckard returns home, he finds Iran grieving because Rachael Rosen arrived while he was gone and killed 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 eerily similar to Mercer's martyrdom. He stumbles abruptly upon what he thinks is a real toad (an animal thought to be extinct) but, when he returns home with it, his wife discovers it is just a robot.
In 1982, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples wrote a loose cinematic adaptation that became the film Blade Runner, featuring several of the novel's characters. It was directed by Ridley Scott. Following the international success of the film, the title Blade Runner was adopted for some later editions of the novel, although the term itself was not used in the original.
As part of their Dangerous Visions dystopia series in 2014, 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, 2013, playing until October 10 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. 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 1982 film.
Critical reception of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has been overshadowed by the popularity of its 1982 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. Summarizing the essential point of Dick's speech, Galvan argues,"[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". "Androids threaten reduction of what makes life valuable, yet promise expansion or redefinition of it, and so do aliens and gods". 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 Dick's other texts, 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 expresses 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. Woodward asserts that the debate over distinctions between human and machine usually fails 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".
Awards and honors
- 1968 – Nebula Award nominee
- 1998 – Locus Poll Award, All-Time Best SF Novel before 1990 (Place: 51)
- "Text Stats". Amazon.com. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
- 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? Archived September 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- 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.
- Jeter, K. W. "Summary Bibliography: K. W. Jeter".
- 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.
- Palmer, Christopher (2003). Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern. Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press. p. 225.
- 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 (ed.). Emotions in the Postmodern. Heidelberg: Alfred Hornung. pp. 75–107.
- Woodward, Kathleen (1997). "Prosthetic Emotions". In Hoffman, Gerhard (ed.). Emotions in the Postmodern. Heidelberg: Alfred Hornung. p. 391.
- "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
- Philip K. Dick, The Little Black Box, 1964 - a short story depicting Mercerisms origin, published 4 years prior to "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"
- 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 (ed.). 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 (eds.). 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.
- McCarthy, Patrick A. (1999–2000). "Do Androids Dream of Magic Flutes?". Paradoxa. 5 (13–14): 344–352.
- 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?