My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Opening Sentence: A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.
This book is written in a way that has the smell of the era it was written in all over it.
The story is placed in a post apocalyptic, kipple infested (book lingo for junk and rubble), radioactive dust infused world, where status is symbolized by the animals you own, and mood controlling devices, hallucinogenic machines and android robot servants are household appliances. In this setup the protagonist Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter assigned to kill rogue androids, struggles to hold on to the morality of his job as increasingly advanced robot brains make it harder to distinguish between androids and human beings. The only discerning quality left exclusively to human beings is their empathy which is artificially imitated so accurately as to be almost indistinguishable from the real thing,unless subjected to complex tests.
Initially when I started reading this book I found it hard to follow the writer’s train of thought. His wording had a way of going off on little tangents and then coming back to the original track in a way I found a little disconcerting. But to really get this book you have to read more into what the writer doesn’t say than what he actually does.
The surface story of the book is lukewarm, especially by today’s standards of bounty hunters and rogue robots. This isn’t a book of action packed man/robot hunts and witty jibes and sarcastic humor. There is none of the flash over substance that someone reading it today might be expecting. What I liked most was how there were moments when I was doubting the sanity of every character and uncertain as to where the lines of reality and delusion started to blur. By the end of it I felt like I had been taken for a ride and not sure where I had been dropped off.
Which is why this is not a book for readers who don’t read between the lines. The crux of this book lies in it’s commentary on humanity, religion, empathy, morality and the emotions involved in relationships, imaginary or real, that will completely escape surface readers. The sooner the reader realizes that the easier they will come to terms with the messages in the scenarios and how their importance overrides that of the story as a whole. The story has philosophies sprinkled in it that come as a surprise to someone not looking for them.
“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.” (pg. 112)
As well as sudden appearances of dark/dry humor thrown in so casually that it can only be a credit to the writer’s mastery.
“I can’t stand TV before breakfast.”
“Dial 888,” Rick said as the set warmed. “The desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it.”
“I don’t feel like dialing anything at all now,” Iran said.
“Then dial 3,” he said. (pg. 4)
To say, “Is your sheep genuine?” would be a worse breach of manners than to inquire whether a citizen’s teeth, hair, or internal organs would test out authentic. (pg. 5)
The only reason I gave the book 3 stars instead of 4 is because I thought the plot itself could also have had more to it than it did. But overall a book to be remembered in what I feel is the unique category of philosophical science fiction novels.
1. “Hence it assailed not only his ears but his eyes; as he stood by the inert TV set he experienced the silence visible and, in it’s own way, alive. Alive! He had often felt its austere approach before; when it came it burst in without subtlety, evidently unable to wait. The silence of the world could not rein back its greed. Not any longer. Not when it had virtually won.” (pg. 13)
2. “Fear made her seem ill; it distorted her body lines, made er appear as if someone had broken her and then, with malice, patched her together badly.” (pg. 41)
3. “He entered the elevator and together they moved nearer to god.” (pg. 107)
4. “You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.” (pg. 112)