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

Rating: ***** (5 out of 5)

Review: I’ve seen many movies that were inspired by Philip K. Dick’s stories, but had never actually read one of them. That will definitely change now that I’ve read this book. Once I finished I immediately felt like getting into another story like this, one that defies and faces the future and presents its possibilities in a chillingly believable way.

It’s sometime in the future and Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war. The animals are all but extinct, and most humans have emigrated to other worlds to escape the radioactive air that eats away at them and turns them into “specials” (aka, degenerates). Androids that are virtually indistinguishable from humans are made for slave labour, despised and given no rights because they are machines, even though they are programmed to act and “feel” like human beings. The only thing they cannot feel is empathy, which has become so important that a religion has been founded on it. Humans are empathic to each other, and specially animals – everyone is expected to care for a real animal, but those who cannot afford it buy an electric replica. Yet this empathy isn’t extended to androids, who are promptly killed if they escape the colonies and try to come to Earth. This job is done by the bounty hunters.

So that’s the story. But this book delves deep into many issues. What is empathy, and why do humans show it to each other and to animals (and even to electric animals!) but not to electric humans, aka androids? What’s the difference between a human brain and a brain programmed to work like a human’s? What is a human being, then?

This is an amazing book, one I can hardly believe was written so long ago. I recommend it to everyone.