Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick

I recently reread Philip K. Dick's classic novella. There was a lot in it I didn't remember, and a lot that struck me differently this time around. I found the descriptions of the 'post-World War Terminus' world - it's desolation and crumbling decay - particularly vivid and compelling. Also the emphasis on compassion and the value of life. The scene in which the android Pris systematically snips the legs off a spider in order to see how many it really needs in order to walk was . . . ghastly.

The whole Mercerism plot-line still confuses me, especially where it weaves in and out of normal reality, and I continue to be confused by what, exactly, Deckard, has learned or gained from the entire experience, particularly when the toad turns out to be electronic. I find Deckard's, well, let's call them 'romantic' relationships for lack of a better word, stilted. At least, they feel forced and don't ring true for me.

Do Androids Dream is, of course, the inspiration behind the 1982 "Blade Runner." It's quite possibly been 20 years since I've seen the movie, and man, the tech does not age well :), so I'm glad Ridley Scott's team has rebooted the concept in the new "Blade Runner 2049" coming out in October.

I don't want to offend anyone, because I know the original was HUGE (iconic, groundbreaking, and so on). I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of noir as a genre - I am frequently and deeply cynical about life, but it's too easy to wallow there - and if you cut out all the establishing seedy city shots and Harrison Ford drinking, that's possibly a third of the Director's Cut. What struck me this time, oddly, was the pervasive scent of middle-aged white man's fear: tenuously employed in a city that looks more like Shanghai than Los Angeles, in danger of having his neck crushed in the grip of a woman's thighs/crotch, etc.

And then there's the violence, toward women in particular, although Ford and Hauer exchange a lot male-male in the end. The, again I'll use quotes, 'romance' between Deckard and Rachel has an ugly quality (She's saying no, but I know she wants me) that I had forgotten. It's even more ugly, I think, because they've realized she's an android, and so there's an element of her being a machine, less than a person, something he can do whatever he wants to. I think, incidentally, there was a missed opportunity to double-cast Rachel and Pris (although I'd hate to miss Daryl Hannah in this role), because in the book they're the same model, and I liked Deckard's ethical dilemma of being on a mission to kill a copy of the one he's realized he has feeling for.

Mercerism, naturally, is gone from the movie version, as is any sense of reverence for life. If anything, Deckard's world is packed with (ethnically non-white) people. There is no equivalent to the 'spider' scene, and with that, I think we lose what's wrong with these androids and why they might need to be killed, even if it looks a lot like murder.

This is actually something that bothers me about both the book and the movie. The androids, mostly, attack when threatened, but people do that too. Some of them are cruel and violent, but then, some people are too. They've committed murders, but then, lots of humans have done that as well. I'm not sure what it is about being an android that justifies destroying them.