Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? — Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? -- Philip K. DickThe book that inspired the film Blade Runner.

Click here for my previous thoughts on this book.

So my umpteenth time of reading this book, and each time it’s always a little different.   My previous reading covered the What is real? thing, this time my focus was more on the Mercer thing with the Empathy Box.   How Philip describes the continuous Sisyphean ritual of the followers of Mercer — which seems to be all of mankind.

The thing with Philip, at least for me, is that he didn’t write anything without a reason to it, and the Mercer thing is a large part of this story.   Why?   What’s the point he’s trying to make, what’s he want us to think about?

I feel that the Empathy Box experience would be similar to what Philip experienced with his meth use.   To achieve the creative heights, bringing life, through empathy, to all his characters, that he would have gained using meth, only to crash down to the bottom afterwards with no way back up but to use more meth.

But Philip makes clear that all of mankind are in this ritual.   That of climbing to tops of hills only to find themselves at the bottom again.   And we see it everywhere.   The guy who buys the fast car, but once he’s got it he’s just as unhappy as he ever was and now wants a faster car, or a yacht, or some other symbol of wealth to show to the rest of mankind.

And yet again, even in the Empathy Box, Philip brings us back to the main point of the story that i mentioned in my previous comments: that of what is real?   Everyone is so convinced that the Empathy Box gives them a real genuine experience with Mercer, only at the end to be told that its all a hoax.   But people won’t believe that its a hoax because they’ve invested too much into it and their lives are shaped by it, they’ve become addicted and to quit now would only leave them at the bottom of the hill with no way — that they know of — of getting back up the hill again without Mercer.

And so it was for Philip and his drug use.   He was caught in the addiction and knew only how to create from within it.   To quit his only known means to creativity, even when he realises that it’s all a hoax and none of it is really true, or real, is a step he couldn’t take.

So that’s my take on this reading.   There’s definitely a lot of food for thought in the Empathy Box for all of us.   Even if it’s just that morning coffee, you’re still a drug addict who can’t function without your cup of Empathy Box.   But what you’re experiencing after drinking it cannot ever be real.   Life becomes a corruption experienced through the over stimulated brain cells of a caffeine addict.   But you need that coffee to climb your hill because you know of no other way — you have to keep up and share with everyone else, you all need to grab onto the handles of your morning coffee cups else you can’t be part of society, a society that is as sick, unwell and addicted to climbing that hill as you are.   And even though there is no hill to climb, you all create one from your collective experience …

… it must be real if everyone’s doing it, right?

Philip’s Page

#scifi #sfmasterworks #dystopian #philipkdick

Here be some previous thoughts from...

  1. Published on: 10 Dec 2018…

    I have a secret love affair with both the film and book and watch them alternatively about a year or so apart.   Each time there’s always something new to find.   The book is more about what it means to be real, whereas the film is more about what it means to be human, or myself, so quite different in perspective yet they bounce incredibly well off each other.   I’ve never found any other book/film combination that works so well together, probably because Ridley Scott didn’t try to copy the book but made something entirely different out of it that complements it so incredibly well.

    As with some other books in “The Pile”, i wasn’t writing reviews the last time i read it, and even though i read it lots of times i want it to be freshly read when i do get around to writing a review.

    And it’s definitely the book’s turn next as i watched the film about a year ago.


  2. After writing the comment above of 10 Dec 2018, i discovered this old review that i wrote years ago:

    For those of you who don’t know, this is the book that was the inspiration for the film Blade Runner.

    There’s not many books that have been made into films that actually make the film better by reading them, and also are made better by watching the film.   As long as one takes ones time to understand what each are truly saying.

    I think, at least for me, the idea being looked at in the book is, “What does it mean to be real?”   Whereas the idea in the film is, “What does it mean to be human?”

    Both are great and brilliantly presented.

    So one does have to ask, what does it mean to be real?   Real what?   Am i a real man or a real woman?   Do i have to be either?   Do i have to be real at all?   What is real these days?

    Sometimes the facsimile can be just as good as the real thing, sometimes it can be better.   A really good facsimile in my local art gallery of a painting that’s locked away in some rich collector’s private collection is, in my opinion, far better than the original.   What use an original painting that no one ever gets to see?   Would most people even be able to tell the difference between a genuine Van Gogh or a really good facsimile?   No they wouldn’t.   They’re told that they’re looking at the real thing by people they trust and they believe it and enjoy the experience.

    I suppose some people might get upset at a woman they go home with who turns out to have a penis, like Stephen Rea’s character in The Crying Game.   “She’s not real!” they shout in horror!!!   So what, up to that point you really wanted to have sex with this person, so what’s changed?   Enjoy the penis, you may find the change from your usual, boring, sex will be a lot more interesting and fun.

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