“A marvellous and complex book, simply written but leaving all kinds of resonance in the mind.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Echoes of prophesy…fortunately this novel contains solely echoes of revelation because like most science fiction, the prophesies in this book are only a partial reflection of future circumstances (and thank goodness for that considering some of the appallingly murky dystopian fiction out there). Here’s a more accurate prophecy coming true: I knew I’d regret not having read this novel earlier, and sure enough…
Like most people who’ve watched “Bladerunner” before reading this book, I’d heard that the movie was not “like the book,” and that is, indeed, true extending well beyond a change of the title. There are a few scenes that take direct quotes, but profoundly surreal science fiction (dystopian or not) doesn’t translate well to film. The producers of Bladerunner hired scriptwriters to draw on the dystopian atmosphere and circumstances, to reflect the bleak, noir aspects of the novel, but left out the truly deep and subtle plotting in lieu of action adventure. Orphic and penetrating rarely make money in the widespread popular cultural milieu, and Phillip K. Dick was definitely writing to express deeper truths in a way that would likely confuse and alienate an audience looking for entertainment.
Science fiction novels are born of the author’s frustration over socio-political ridiculousness and such book’s completion is fueled by socio-political disaffection and nihilism. It is somewhat surprising that geekdom hasn’t made popular some of the terms and phrases that are so apt today: kipple, chicken head (a literary allusion begging to be a common insult), vidphone (apparently this one just never “took off” even though videophones existed). There is a glossary online should someone be interested in a post-post-Urban Dictionary sort of way. This book couldn’t be any more “timely” if it tried. Parallel analogies abound. One particularly creepy plot point recalls our present scourge of fake news. However, one analogy seems the obverse. The empathy box on first glance reminds the reader of the Internet as it’s best self, creating connections and “bring people closer.” In the real world, it has a questionable positive affect on empathy. Viewed from the end of 2016, the Internet is easily conceivable as the empathy box’s evil twin.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is birthed stylistically from the era of the jaunty, absurdist satirical style of science fiction so well know from the 1960s and 1970s (along the same vein as Douglas Adams and Harry Harrison) that makes you wonder if the ambience of the novel was due in no small part to LSD. Whether mildly enhanced pharmaceutically, the commentary is dead on and more than a little disturbing because it is so. As impish as Dick’s writing appears at first glance, upon deeper consideration it is hiding a wake up call in the form of a well-disguised heavy mallet. The book may appear more fun and games than the movie, but it isn’t. If you’re not in the mood for the abyss, I’d advise waiting to read this until you have a good mood in need of wrecking.
Added 29th January 2017