Few books leave me satisfied and puzzled, and I don’t quite know what to make of this one since it offered enjoyment and frustration. I enjoyed Blade Runner (both the theatrical and the Final Cut versions), which seemed to be a meditation on mortality, what constitutes life, and what fills it with meaning. The book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ obviously ponders the same questions and ideas but in a more complex and even less resolved way. What is reality? Does this world and universe have an inevitable end? If so, is it bleak in the way Dick wrote here? What drives us to keep on living, and living well? Is it a biological drive to survive, is it the companionship we gain from other humans and animals? Can artificial means (mood organ, electric animals, or androids) fulfill us in the same way that fellow people do, the way that family and close friends do? What role does religion play in our lives regardless of a religion being true or false?
My own more modern questions after reading:
Are Facebook and other social media outlets a version of ‘false’ companionship? Do our specialized groups simply serve us the way an android slave might have been designed to in Dick’s world, without requiring real intimate empathy, compassion, and connection like real humans do? Or is social media merely a modern version of the technological revolution facilitated by the printing press—books?
Often when reading a book we feel intimately close to the characters, who are often dead or fictional, and sometimes the author as well. The problem is the author has no such experience. He or She might see a handful of fans through book signing or reading events and probably gets lots of letters and emails from them but in no way I think has the emotional connecting experience that a reader has. Is this kind of relationship a ‘authentic’ or ‘true’ one? Are internet based relationships ‘real’ or perhaps given the variety of relational opportunities we should be thinking of relationships in terms of degrees and kinds rather than true or false, or genuine and fake?
There are many other things Dick can make a reader think about but I am left thinking about connections and like J. R. Isidore I learned that I am not ‘an island’ and I agree with him when he says that “You have to be with other people . . . in order to live at all. I mean, before they came here I could stand it, being alone in the building. But now it’s changed. You can’t go back, he thought. You can’t go from people to nonpeople. . . I’m dependent on them. Thank god they stayed.”
The book is filled with beautiful descriptive writing, page turning curiosity, and somewhat surprisingly ends by placing the reader on a hauntingly desolate mountain of questions—as evidenced by this post.