I read this years ago, probably because I’d just seen it’s companion movie, Blade Runner. And recalling the sort of person I was in college (half-baked, like most humans under twenty-seven), I remember being slightly disappointed in it.
Let’s toss the movie and focus on this wonderful book by Philip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream… is centered on a tomb of a world, our world following a nuclear exchange that left the planet dust covered (and slightly radiative, too) and dead. Pretty much all the animals are gone (and those that are left are hoarded and worshiped (in the capitalist way, with a pocket reference guide that lists their market prices)). People who can are emigrating to the colony worlds. Those who can’t, well, they go through the motions of life in their empty cities.
Those who emigrate are provided with an android to help them. And it’s a good deal to everyone… except the android. Occasionally these bots decide to head back to the mother-world and hide among those left. It’s illegal, of course, and those that do are hunted by bounty hunters, such as our Rick Deckard (who owns an electric sheep but dreams of better critters).
Six droids are on the loose and Deckard’s ranking hunter just got blasted by a bot he was testing. So now it starts. He must administer a test that attempts to detect a droid’s lack of empathy. And here’s where the book dovetails wonderfully, hitting all manner of questions (like good scifi should). How can a person who shoots sentient beings be any more empathetic than those he hunts? Can a thing that cannot feel true emotions feel just that? And how can some forms of life be highly valued while others are subject to brutal forfeiture, worth nothing?
There is a weariness here that works wonderfully, an exhaustion of life on a doomed world we, ourselves, killed. Deckard continues with his quest, attempting to burn the droids as quickly as he can before they either trap him or scatter to the four winds. It’s a great tale that is not blunt nor strives to a specific ‘right answer’. And unlike most great books that become bad movies, the Ridley Scott flick has it’s own merits (the director’s cut, if you please).
So I liked this one and would strongly recommend it. Read it and think about how precious life truly is.