Steven Wu's Book Reviews
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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
or, Bladerunner
by Philip K Dick

A book review by Steven Wu
September 06, 2001

Rating: 9 (of 10)

The cult movie classic Bladerunner was based on this book, so I became interested in reading it after seeing the movie and noticing the book's unusual title in the credits. I liked the movie, but I was blown away by the book. And what's disturbing is that I have no idea why I liked the book so much.

There's no doubt that it's imaginative. A major part of the book that doesn't make it onto the screen is Deckard's fascination (shared by the rest of society) with real as opposed to robotic animals. Having a real animal is not only an important status symbol; it is also, for Deckard, deeply reassuring, in a way that Dick makes plausible without ever quite explaining. Deckard's feelings about real vs. robotic animals mix strangely with his job as a replicant hunter; that is, a cop who runs around the city shooting replicants (extremely realistic androids) who have thrown off the yokes of slavery to attempt to live like normal humans. And Deckard's feelings about animals and replicants become even more confused when he reflects on the actual functioning of the Voigt Empathy Test, which is supposed to distinguish humans from replicants.

Deckard is, without a doubt, the star of this book--a world-weary cop (and who wouldn't be weary in his world?) whose beliefs about what is real and what he values become ever more confused as the plot thickens. The last 50 pages of the book are deeply, deeply moving, even though I often could not explain to myself why I was so moved. The last two scenes--in a wasted dump and in Deckard's home, respectively--are perfect.

That is not to say that the whole book is perfect. There were times when the action was confusing, there were entire passages recounting Deckard's thoughts that I had trouble following, and there were parts of the book that I thought were done better in the movie. I also get the feeling that this book will work better for some people than for others. But, ultimately, when I finished the book, I had to sit down and just stare out into space for a while. And then I had to think.

It's not often you come across a book like this. Read it now.

Copyright © 2001 Steven Wu

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Steven Wu's Book Reviews