Monday, 20 April 2009

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? - Philip K Dick

Having just treated myself to the five disc DVD set of the various versions of the movie Blade Runner, I thought I should haul the book off the shelf and re-read that as well. This is important. No film is a replication of the book. More so in this case than others. Or not.

Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter employed to hunt down and ‘retire’ replicants – organic robots with increasingly sophisticated brains. That is the gist of the story and the one with which movie-goers will be familiar. The sub-text of the book (and film) is a discussion of what makes us human, the nature of reality as perceived through human eyes. The book, of course, is able to go into this at a much deeper level.

There is no sense at any time in the story that such philosophical exploration gets in the way of the story. Not least because the story is written in the first person and we are therefore hearing the thoughts of the central character as he tries to make sense of his decaying world.

Excellent as the movie is, it is a shame that it has so overshadowed the book. Dick was an erratic writer. At his best (as he is with this) he writes well and fluently. At other times one gets the impression that he was simply overwhelmed by ideas; that he was desperate to get his thoughts and ideas onto paper. Consequently, some of his work has the feeling of being a rough draft. That said, his ideas are worth having in any form because he went to the very heart of the confusions of modern life.

If you’ve not seen the film, read the book; and do it before you see the film. It is a much richer intellectual experience and a cracking good story. If you have seen the film, but not read the book, shame on you. I like the film (I’m a heretic in that I actually prefer the version with the voiceover as it is closer in tone to the book and its noirish roots), but the book is better.