Friday, 16 May 2008

SF Masterworks #4 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I very much doubt that anyone remember, but a while back I read and reviewed book 1 of the SF Masterworks series "The Forever War." The series reprints exceptional pieces of Science Fiction Writing from the last fifty years or so and a bit further if a book merits it. I had originally intended to go through them in numerical order, but the length of time between this post and the first (use tags to find it if interested) and the vast amount of unread books cluttering my room suggest to me that it will be a while before I get even to the very tempting I Am Legend, which is book two.

So I will press on and go through what I've got and read - which is actually quite a small amount, even more so than I'd anticipated. I've got one or two more on my shelf waiting to be read and I'll add them as I go along. This book, fourth in the series is perhaps the most famous work of Philip K Dick, more famously known as the film adaptation Blade Runner. It's been a while since I read it so I will rely a lot in wikipedia and other sources to keep my memory fresh as I write.

The book is the story of Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter living in a desecrated America affected by World War Terminus. Due to Earth effectively being a lost cause the government is busy trying to get people to move to off-world colonies ( a common theme in Dick's work) even promising them an android helper to get them started in their difficult new life. Some of these androids rebel, kill their human masters and return to Earth and go into hiding, thus providing Deckards employment.

Deckards desire is to have a real sheep of his own. Most animals have been destroyed and all are endangered and real animals are very expensive. Deckard has to make to with a robotic model, but is eager to get a real one and thus willing to take on the job. Six of the latest model androids have escaped and his job is to find out how they can be distinguished from humans and taken down. His first point of contact a rich heiress for the android manufacturer turns out to be an android herself and pushes Deckard into doubt and strange terretories where he encounters people who aren't what they seem, Mercer, the God of a new religion and those worst affected by radiation poisoning.

The novel differs significantly from the film though the basic premise is the same. I found watching the film to be a confusing process after reading the book and doubtless the process will be the same the other way round. Nonetheless both are excelent works and well worth experiencing. This story is dark, compelling and when faced with biological copies designed to think like us, it makes us question what it is to be human.

Dick's work is always out there to play with your mind, but his works truly are greats, and many more of them are on this list of Masterworks and they are well worth picking up.


Samuel Li said...

Where do you get these from?
(Be specific to the nearest aisle)

A figleaf of your imagination said...

What PKD books or the SF Mastwerworks? "Do Androids" should be in the SF section of any self-respecting bookshop. Waterstones, Borders and most likely Smiths will sell them. I found a stones once with a whole shelf dedicated to the Masterworks series...but I don't think any of the ones round here do.

Any Philip K Dick book is highly reccomendable - I have a few you can lend if you want Sam.