Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Dick's work is philosophically remote in a way that few other science fiction writers are. One on end we have Dick's question about freedom, sovereignty, religion, and what it means to be human. On the other hand we have his drug use and the fact that he was going a little bit crazy.
Let us start with the former. Dick's works as a science fiction writer were strange, hard, and full of pulp. He wrote about androids being hunted down and victual reality machines. He wrote of psychic powers and alternative history. These are the sorts of things that people expect when reading science fiction. The fun and camp of it all, and Dick was a master in that regard.
However, these were just tools. A framing device so that he may ask questions that were bigger than all of us. This often took the form of drug-like fever dreams where suddenly the main character was left questioning reality.
Dick often said that he felt like he was an anomaly that the Universe needed to correct. He felt as though the FBI was watching him a lot as well. This paranoia of something big and in authority was what fueled Dick's works. It is clear that Dick did not care for police or for religion, at least in terms of power and control.
So, when he wrote, naturally he had his characters be exposed to powers much larger than they were. He would take the every day man and explore what it meant to be human and what authority could do. Yet, Dick was not so one sided as to say religion was horrid, nor authority. His characters were often men of authority subject to the changing rules of the world they lived in (see Minority Report) and, as a lover of psychedelic drugs, Dick felt that spiritual experience could be had. It was the institution that plagued him.
Dick was not the first to tackle ideas this huge, nor was he the last. Rather, Dick was the best. He wrote like a machine, as if constantly afraid that if he did not then there would be no way for him to come to understand reality. Dick wrote for the reason that many of us write, to exercise whatever demon lurks in our minds.
"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," was written before Dick really went into the murky depths that would be his later, and much more dense, works (see Ubik). That is not to say that this book is without thought, this is the story of a man who doesn't know what being human is anymore and, for us outsiders it is a feeling that can be understood. Here Dick examines the human condition against the external forces of religion and desire, later, however, he would show us how those same forces would work within us and lead us to some sort of spiritual awakening. "Do Androids Dream" was the seed that grew into that strange plant.
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