Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

My latest fluff reading was a science fiction book I'd wanted to read for a long time, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. As the book jacket proclaims, it's "The inspiration for Blade Runner" - one of my favorite science fiction movies, and the main reason I've wanted to read the book.

The operative work in that blurb is "inspiration." It clearly did inspire the movie, and many of the characters are the same in name, but there are major differences.

To be honest, I think the movie is far better than the book. It has a sharper focus and greater depth, eliminated or changed some of the elements in the novel that would have gotten in the way, developed the characters in more intriguing ways, and transformed the dystopian world into something more interesting.

The book is not bad - it just does not match up well with the movie.

There are also some moments that left me scratching my head. At one point, for example, the main character when confronting an android begins to say things that don't make sense. There are actions in the novel that seem to be leading toward something, but then don't; and there is one seemingly significant character in the novel who's introduced, then dropped. The quasi-religion (Mercerism) in the book doesn't work - Kurt Vonnegut's Bokononism is better! - and reads more like a dated fixation of the time in which the book was written (1960s). (The religious elements in the movie were sharper and more thought provoking.)

I thought the character development in the movie was far better - particularly with the main character, Deckard, and the two main androids, Rachael and Roy Batty. You cared about them in a way you don't in the novel. The climax of the movie packs a punch; by comparison, the novel ends with a whimper.

Again, as a piece of 45 year-old science fiction it's okay, but it's not great literature. And my love of the film may be distorting my view.

My suggestion is if you have to pick between the two, select the movie.

Pax et bonum

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