Self-proclaimed bibliophile, culture nut and nerdfighter. English lit. and linguistics geek. Future career in publishing.
Note: This review was taken from my Goodreads account.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is about a bounty hunter who "retires" humanoid machines (androids or "andys") and he has to take a case in which he must retire six andys with advanced model brains (Nexus-6), which ultimately make them harder to catch.
First, a warning: Thar be spoilers below. These spoilers are for both the novel and its film adaptation Blade Runner.
I think that Blade Runner is better than this book (even with its terrible '80s music. I mean, who really needs that much synth?). And here's why:
1) There's more action in Blade Runner.
In the book, the action does not feel like action. There's no tension and it's so horribly dull. When there's some shooting going on, it goes like this:
He ran at me. I shot him with my laser tube. The laser hit him in the head and wrecked his face. He didn't move.
Well, just wow. That's about as exciting as painting my nails. Same amount of tension, too.
There's also parts where Deckard just flat-out says, "You're an android" and there are no dangerous repercussions. I mean, what? We know these androids have killed so that they can escape and other people have been sent to hospital with injuries, and yet Deckard doesn't seem to think that telling them that he knows they're not human won't land him in hot water.
2) The romance with Rachael Rosen.
The movie is, I admit, not great on the romance either. Physically restraining her and then she's turned on? Shame on you, Ridley Scott. But, the romance in the book isn't better. We don't see how Deckard's relationship with Rachael escalates to the point of love--in fact, it doesn't really at all. He doesn't think about her much aside from the times when he interacts with her, and then suddenly they're in a hotel room and he's like, "I'm in love with you" and she's like, "Don't retire those andys" and he's like, "I have to" and she's like, "I don't love you, I only slept with you because usually when I sleep with bounty hunters (count: 9) they can't go on to retire their next targets." Hot damn.
Then later we keep hearing that one of the androids is the same make and model as Rachael Rosen, so it will look like her and that means Deckard won't be able to retire her since he's too into Rachael and it'll be too hard for him. Didn't really turn out that way since he zapped her so fast with his laser tube that it seemed like he wasn't torn up about it at all.
3) Are androids "alive"?
I personally think that the movie deals with this better. While in the book Deckard does think about empathy and androids and whether we should regard them as beings, he doesn't do it that much. And when he does, it doesn't seem all that revelatory or important. Most of the time, he doesn't seem that interested. I think that's a fault in Dick's writing, though. There are a couple moments in the book where the androids clearly show their lack of empathy and especially understanding of the humans around them, but overall Dick's agenda is fairly obvious: even if it's mechanical, it can be alive. We see this with the electric animals throughout the novel, as well. I think that Dick just doesn't handle the subject matter as well as the movie does.
Plus sides to the novel are that Dick throws us into his world from page one. It's alien and interesting and I want to know more about this post-apocalyptic Earth where the people with the right IQ can emigrate to Mars and other off-world colonies. We've got mood organs for you to change how you feel, hovercars which just straight-up fly, and humans obsessed with real animals (Deckard has an electric sheep, which I found annoying because it relates to the title in a concrete way--blegh).
Also, the idea that sentient things are still alive, even if they don't grow or their cells don't regenerate or that they lack fundamental human qualities like love or empathy.
Another plus is the title of the novel. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is one of the best titles ever.