Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick, 1968
When I sat down to read Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” I had no idea what to expect. The only reason I knew about the book was from the fact that the famous Blade Runner, which I had not seen but heard nothing but exemplary things about, was based on this sci-fi classic. So when I sat down to think about the types of books/movies I wanted to do for this marathon, this combination immediately came to mind, though with no real preconceived ideas about what either work would be about really. It was an exciting undertaking.
What struck me when I first starting reading this book was the way Dick chose to describe things. He sets this 1968 book in the future, though the not too distant future of 2021 in the version I read, so there are massive technological advancements that require neat names and interesting functions, like the machine where they can input a number for a specific feeling, like the desire to watch TV. Once over these clunky descriptions, the story, and the characters, really started to grab hold and carry me to the finish.
Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter in San Francisco after World War Terminus. Many people have left Earth for Mars and along with them are androids who help them in their everyday tasks. Deckard’s job as a bounty hunter is to “retire” these androids when they escape back to Earth. The problem is that the company that manufactures these androids has gotten quite good at it. The new Nexus-6 droids are so good they can pass the Voigt-Kompf test and fool even the best bounty hunters, which is why Deckard is called on to finish off some droids who killes his predecessor. At the same time Deckard struggles with his desire to have a real life animal, a sign of class in the time after the war. He currently only has an electric sheep. But upon his journey he begins to question the way the world in which he lives is set up, and he must confront androids and humans a like.
What makes this book such a great read is the depth to which Dick is able to go on the character of Deckard. His inner struggle, as well as physical struggle in his mission against the androids, is a fascinating give and take on his way to completing his job. Rachel Rosen, of Rosen Industries, as well as J.R. Isidore are spectacular character that add a lot to the story and Dick also takes care to give them life within the story as well, especially Isidore, the less than intelligent human who is duped into supporting the runaway androids. His story is almost as great as Deckard’s.
The final showdown becomes somewhat of a letdown, as the events of the book almost seem to move too fast, though perhaps that is just because I was enjoying spending the time with the characters, but it did feel a bit abrupt. If anything, that is the only fault of the book. The ending was not as neat and clean as perhaps I would have preferred, but again, is this the effect perhaps that Dick was looking for?
Directed by Ridley Scott, 1982
So now onto the sci-fi classic that is Blade Runner, the film based on the book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. Let me first say that this was absolutely nothing like I expected it to be, and for that reason I think I need to see it a second time sometime soon so that I can be sure of my thoughts. For one, it was only remotely similar to the book. And second, it was much slower, and more reflective that I ever anticipated. The film is directed by Ridley Scott, who seems like the perfect director for a project like this, but I would have certainly expected more action that I got, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The film does follow Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), but this time he is a retired Blade Runner, or bounty hunter, from Los Angeles. Less is explained in the manner of the androids, though there are numerous advertisements about the “off-planet” opportunities for humans. So Deckard is recruited back to retire these last few androids that have escaped. Rachel (Sean Young) is still around to provide skepticism and temptation for Deckard, and this time Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) provides a leadership within the escaped androids, and a very compelling one at that.
What sticks out first and foremost about this film is the visual effects and the camera work in general. Coming out in 1982, CGI and the like were not yet invented so Scott and company had to visualize the future world of Los Angeles in a completely new and creative way, and they did an outstanding job. I also had mentioned the slow, reflective tone of the film, which was complimented and furthered by the brilliant score by Vangelis. Coming off of his iconic score of the film Chariots of Fire, a very different kind of film, the Greek composer’s style seems perfectly suited for such a sci-fi film.
In addition, I felt like the acting was perfect for the film, especially Sean Young, who has done nothing else which has caught my attention. That being said, Ford does a great job carrying the film as Deckard, but no review of Blade Runner could be complete without mentioning the brilliance of Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty. And perhaps more importantly, his speech at the end in the rooftop, which sums up the film and brings such a beautiful closing to the surprisingly cerebral film that is Blade Runner.
Again, this is going off of one viewing and having a great desire to rewatch it, but as it stands I think I greatly enjoyed the film and fully expect to find many more nuggets of gold with more rewatches. If anything, it certainly was able to surprise me, even being the legendary film that it is.
What to say about the adaptation, well I applaud the screenwriting teams for making it their own, because they certainly change quite a bit and make a unique story based more on the concept and general story of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” than the actual novel by Philip K. Dick. Oftentimes that can become a struggle, especially for fans of the book, but having just read the book, there was not enough time for any notions of perfection to settle in from the book before viewing the film.
By taking what is already a great concept and building their own idea for how such a story can unfold, the screenwriters make a fresh tale. However, as is almost always the case, the characters seem much less developed in the film than in the book, and much of that has to do simply with less time to do so. For that reason, I feel like I like the book better than the film and the fact that I did not get as much from the characters in the film makes me want more from Blade Runner, though that is a difficult thing to wish for because of the time constraint mentioned previously. However, any conclusion I attempt to make ends with me liking both products for different reasons and in different amounts. Both highly recommended.