Dec 2, 2012

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Original Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
English Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Turkish Title: Androidler Elektrikli Koyun Düşler mi?
Author: Philip K. Dick
Pages: 208
My Rating: 4/5
While I was reading this book...:... I sometimes had to go back and reread some pages (though the story and the language were not that complex).

This book caught my attention long ago because I really really liked the title. Then I spent a good amount of time and energy trying to find the Turkish version. I couldn't find it in any of the second hand bookstores. Luckily, a dear friend bought the book for me in UK and brought it to Turkey.

In a disturbing future, most humans emigrated to Mars because of the toxic air of Earth. Those who remain are in danger of becoming classified either as "specials" or "chickenheads" due to brain damage resulting from poor air quality. Real animals are really scarce in this toxic Earth and one of the common hobby for those remained in Earth is to have android animals, which act almost same as real animals.

The main characters are Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who must put to rest eight disturbingly-human Nexus-6 androids who have escaped from Mars (after killing their owners), and John Isidore, a special who drives a van for an android animal repair company. Isidore's been classified as a special for not meeting IQ cutoffs. Still, he possesses what all androids lack: empathy.

From the first day I saw the title of this novel, I knew I would like it. After I read the first 30 pages, I was somewhat confused. Maybe my expectations were so high but I was sure that the story would drag me into it  from page 1 onwards. It didn't happen of course. I had to read the first 60-70 pages to see the real momentum of the story.

I liked many questions the story got me into thinking about artificial intelligence:

  • Would it be foolish for us to empathize with artificial life?
  • Are humans, who completely lack empathy, really that different from androids with humanistic characteristics?
  • Is it right to judge someone's worth in a society by just looking at his/her IQ score?
  • How one can sense or measure the existence of empathy in another being?
  • If your responses to certain situations have become standard, does that mean you are on the edge of losing your core humanistic characteristics? 
Well, the list goes on and I belive one should like/love a book by definition if it makes him/her question that many diverse stuff. This novel was first published in 1968 and in the first version the year of this disturbing future is set at 1991. Later editions changed it to 2021. I'm pretty sure that they will probably change it again. I found it really interesting that Dick had such little faith in humanity. I believe he was kind of sure that technological advancement will be so advanced that we would ruin Earth quickly.

Being a non-native reader, it was a quick read for me and as the events were set in one single day and night, it was quite fast-paced. It's structured well, and, for a science fiction book, relatively easy to read. There is not a lot of violence and the ending wraps up quickly.

Why 4 stars instead of 5? The plot was totally awesome but the story telling fell behind. Maybe I would have liked it more if it was a longer and more detailed novel. Still, it is a Sci-Fi Masterwork! 

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