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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

In my ongoing quest to catch up on books I should have read years ago, I recently finished reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” – the book on which Bladerunner was based.

A photo of the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

I’m a big Bladerunner fan – and also loved last year’s follow up movie, Bladerunner 2049 – but for me, the book was a mixed bag.

It illuminated some of the parts of the film that in retrospect hadn’t fully sunk in – like why animals (such as Tyrell Corp’s owl) were so important in post-apocalyptic San Fransisco, due to most species being endangered or extinct.

It also went much deeper into the question of whether empathy and similar social emotions were solely human abilities or could be felt by androids too. And I can see now see why this was explored further with lead character Joe in Bladerunner 2049.

On the downside, the techno-religious angle of Mercerism didn’t really work for me – although maybe I didn’t pick up properly on the metaphor. Also, I was kind of disappointed to learn that there actually is an electric sheep in the story! I had always loved the title and thought it was just a really clever reference to counting sheep in your dreams, rather than something so literal. Never mind!

All of the downsides were worth it, however, for the detailed parts about Voight-Kampff empathy tests. I have always loved the ideas and language around this, such as measuring androids for their Blush Response and other signs of empathy when asked questions which would normally elicit a reaction in humans.

All in, I’m glad I read it to gain the additional background to the movies.

I’m now off to watch Bladerunner again.

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