Book Talk: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Since I am lazy lame, I did not prepare well for Sci-Fi Month and forwent an intro post. If you want to learn more about me and my history with sci-fi, check out my intro post from last yearsfm_banner_02b (1)I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? about three months ago, but I thought I would wait to review it for Sci-Fi November. What I really intended to do was to write the review before but schedule to post it in November. That’s not what happened. I don’t feel like the book is fresh enough in my mind for me to give it a proper review, however, I want to talk about what I do remember (with some help from Wikipedia since I only remembered one character’s name from this book).

gr-doandroidsdreamI know it started off a little slow for me. The main character, Rick Deckard, is hooked up to a mood machine and wakes up happy. His wife, not so much. She seems to enjoy being crabby. Then there’s all this stuff about how they have an electrical sheep, which isn’t as good as having a real sheep, because animals are status symbols. I found the ideas semi-interesting but wasn’t really hooked, and I didn’t care much for the characters so far.

Then Rick goes to work (we might have gotten some John Isidore stuff before Rick’s work, I can’t remember, but we’ll get back to him) and we find out he bounty hunts androids, and androids can blend in with humans pretty well. But their big flaw is that they lack the empathy that humans do. I found this a lot more interesting.

We also learn about John Isidore, who I was confused about for a while because I thought he might be an android, but apparently he was just a not-so-bright human. He ends up helping some androids who take refuge in his apartment building as Rick attempts to track them down.

Most of Rick’s bounty hunting stuff was interesting, and there was one particular part I really got into where he was dealing with another “bounty hunter” that he had never heard of, and I won’t spoil anything there, but I was expecting quite a plot twist there, and was kind of disappointed when I didn’t get one. And unfortunately, after the non-plot twist, the story kind of went downhill for me. The John Isidore stuff was less interesting, and I felt so bad for him the whole time.

Then the ending was especially strange for me. Throughout the story there is talk of this guy named Mercer, and of his philosophy, which is known as Mercerism. I never really understood what the point of this man’s philosophies were, or why people cared about them, and I really don’t know why the novel ended with a strong emphasis on it. There were so many interesting aspects of the story, like colonization in space, the decaying of Earth, androids that pass as humans, and then it all ends with this dumb Mercer/electric animal subplot that I never actually understood in the first place. For all the things I have heard about this book and about Blade Runner, I was really disappointed by how flat it all felt in the end. I felt like I missed the point, because this is regarded as one of THE stories of science fiction. Afterwards I also felt no desire to watch Blade Runner, which I have heard so much about and thought I might want to watch after reading the book.

As I mentioned, I think there are certainly interesting aspects of the novel, and I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads, which still feels right to me as a book with potential but didn’t quite work for me personally.

So for those who have read it, I would love your thoughts on what really stands out to you about this novel. Did you get more from the ending than I did? 

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6 thoughts on “Book Talk: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

  1. Hi Amy,

    What stood out for me in the book was Mercerism, or one of the main belief systems of the fictional world created by Dick that serves as a means for the author to explore the ideas about what it means to be human. To me that seems to be what the book is about: Do belief systems make us human or are belief systems just another system (like a computer program or a machine) that can be adopted by machines (the androids), and thus blur the lines between man and machine. Is Decker a human or an android? Is the empathy test enough to determine the difference between the authentic human and the artificial human? Can “real” humans be artificial — and vice versa?

    Having seen Blade Runner before reading the book, I was intrigued by the ideas behind Mercerism (because I think all of that is absent from the movie). I agree with you that those passages of musing make the novel feel flat and slow, and it makes me understand the novel as more of a philosophical musing about the nature of being human. In that sense, the novel isn’t a plot-based thriller; that is what the movie is.

    So I don’t think you missed the point of the book. It just sounds like it didn’t match your expectations.

    Thanks for the review!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! What you said makes me understand the purpose behind it more. I just wish maybe it had been a little clearer, or just a little different in how it was presented, which goes in line with what you said about it not quite matching my expectations.

  2. It did take a while for me to get into it as well. When we actually got to the androids and the bounty hunting, it really got good. The stuff about Mercerism at the end was weird to me too. Overall, it was a good read.

  3. I’ve heard so much about this book as well, and would have had different expectations too – I could probably enjoy it now that I have an idea of what to expect, but I think I want to watch the movie first. Which I almost never do, but in this case, it might get me more excited about reading the book which I’m not really looking forward to anymore. I like it when stories can have a great message and also a great, absorbing story. But I hope I will enjoy this book when I read it!

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