This write up will simply entail my thoughts on the book rather than comprehensively review it. The first thing that came to mind after completing the book was that it should have ended a few chapters earlier than it did. Dick finished the more interesting story line and then spent the remaining two chapters on some of what I felt were the weaker elements of the book. Of course this is a subjective opinion and there are PKD fans and critics all over the world that would heartily disagree with me.

The second thought that came to my mind was a realisation of just how brilliant Asimov and Clarke were. Here is PKD at what may have been his best, yet compared to all of the Asimov and Clarke I’ve read it just seemed shallow and unconvincing. There just wasn’t the same feel of universal completeness or intelligence in comprehension that I’ve come to love in Asimov and Clarke’s writing. Possibly though – Asimov and Clarke (of whom I am a big fan) have ruined me for a lot of other sci-fi simply due to their brilliance.

However, ideas are the medicine on which I depend to make my life more than a repetitive, existential procedure, and PKD put some great ideas in this novel:

1) Mercerism: a new order of religion. Technology and psychology combined and synthesised – Technopsychology/Psytechology is what I call it. Based upon some transient being called Wilbur Mercer who in a Buddhist sort of way helps all humans to come together to share their pains and joys using their ‘Empathy box’ in the accent unto true enlightenment. There are a few interesting thoughts on sacrifice in here too. This surreal part of the society in PKD’s book is worth a look.

2) The Mood Organ: Here is a truly interesting and surrealistically succinct commentary on the human experience: this mood organ. When connected up, the mood organ introduces whatever mood one desires into one’s Psyche. Coupled with being an alarm clock, this piece of technology is truly brilliant. Simply set it for setting 481 “Awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future” and 5am and you wake up to this mood even at so early an hour. This whole idea really got me thinking – especially in light of the Stoicism I recently wrote about. What happens to a world in which everyone only ever feels what they want to feel? Is this Utopia or does it turn to Distopia when the balance of good and bad in the universe tries to correct itself?

3) Organic Androids without Empathy: PKD’s androids are organic contraptions with a life span of 4 or so years. The engineers of the time had conquered all scientific and biological aspects in the creation of these beings except for cell reproduction – meaning that the organic machine would simply wear out, break down and fail after around 4 years. The other interesting part of PKD’s androids is their one major disability – a complete lack of empathy. This disability becomes all the more contrasting and important in the age of Mercerism – a religion based upon the experience of empathy.

4) The name of the book: In a world where almost all animals have died it has become a social imperative for people to keep and take care of animals (animals like sheep for example) with which they can practice their empathy. This has become such an integral part of people’s lives that people even dream of having an animal of their own if they don’t already have one. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep then? No, I don’t think they do.

The book reads quite easily and I did enjoy it the whole way through, I also respect and admire PKD and was very pleased to finally read this iconic book that I’ve heard references to so often.

Brilliance of prose: 6/10
Ideas and ability to inspire: 6/10
Comprehensiveness: 5/10
Storyline: 6/10
Value to vagabond doctrine: 7/10
Total: 60%

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