Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was the first Philip K. Dick book I read and a great introduction to his work. If you’ve seen Blade Runner then you are familiar with the plot: the bounty hunter Rick Deckard must retire the Nexus-6 androids (the most advanced models yet!) who have escaped from Mars and returned to Earth.
The most notable missing storyline in the movie adaptation has to do with the animals. Due to nuclear fallout after a world war living animals are incredibly rare. They are seen as status symbols and their cost is recorded in a constantly-referenced catalog called Sydney’s Animal & Fowl. This aspect of the book isn’t even really a subplot but more like the main plot line, since Deckard is hunting the androids for the bounty so he can buy a living animal to replace the electric sheep he has at the beginning of the story.
Otherwise Blade Runner is more or less faithful to the novel with some things necessarily streamlined. The terms “blade runner” and “replicant” are unique to the movie, and the ambiguity at the end about whether Deckard is human or not was invented by Ridley Scott and the screenwriters.
Dick declined to write a novelization of Blade Runner which would have netted him something like $400,000. Instead he got $12,500 for rereleasing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? under the Blade Runner name and artwork while he completed The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. I imagine anyone expecting the grittiness of the movie probably didn’t know what to make of the Penfield Mood Organ in the first chapter, one of the funniest parts of the book.
Cast of characters
- Rick Deckard – our protagonist
- Iran Deckard – Rick’s wife
- John Isidore – a “special” damaged by the nuclear fallout. Jack Isidore is the name of the protagonist in Confessions of a Crap Artist
- Wilbur Mercer – figurehead of the Mercerism religion that preaches empathy
- Buster Friendly – host of a tv and radio show called ‘Buster Friendly and His Friendly Friends’
- Harry Bryant – SF police inspector
- Eldon Rosen – head of the Rosen Association which manufactures the Nexus-6
- Rachel Rosen – a Nexus-6 android
- Max Polokov – a Nexus-6 posing as a Soviet cop
- Pris Stratton – a Nexus-6 who is the same model as Rachel Rosen
- Hannibal Sloat – Isidore’s employer at the ‘Van Ness Pet Hospital’ which actually repairs mechanical animals
- Luba Luft – a Nexus-6 posing as an opera singer
- Garland – a Nexus-6 posing as a police inspector
- Phil Resch – a SF bounty hunter
- Ray and Irmgard Baty – the last two Nexus-6 androids
Other things to know
- Voigt-Kampff Scale – the empathy test designed to expose the androids