Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is one of Philip K. Dick's most influential works, serving as the basis for the classic film, Blade Runner, and inspiring generations of science fiction and cyberpunk writers since its publication in 1968. In a dystopian future, Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter tasked with "retiring" escaped androids that closely resemble humans. When a group of these advanced androids flees to Earth from space colonies, Deckard's assignment grows complicated as he grapples with ethical and existential dilemmas concerning humanity, empathy, and the indistinct lines between the artificial and the real. For collectors, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has always been one of Dick's most sought-after titles. This is a first printing of the movie tie-in paperback edition published by Ballantine and is the first Blade Runner edition.
Softcover. First Ballantine Books Edition, First Printing. ($2.75). New York: Ballantine Books, 1982. Pringle, Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels (55). Levack 12r. Wintz & Hyde SF6.4. ISBN: 0345301293. #10504.
Originally published in 1968, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has become one of Philip K. Dick’s best-known works. This acclaim is partly due to the 1982 cult film Blade Runner, loosely based on the novel. Directed by Ridley Scott and adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, the film, starring Harrison Ford as bounty hunter Rick Deckard, is celebrated for its production design and its dark, neo-noir style. Both the novel and the film are set in post-apocalyptic futures, with the film located in Los Angeles and the book in San Francisco. In these futures, radioactive dust from a nuclear war has contaminated Earth, leading to the endangerment or extinction of most animal species.
In this dystopian setting, humans are encouraged to emigrate to off-world colonies, supported by slave androids that are identical to humans. These androids perform the majority of manual labor. The narrative follows Deckard, who is tasked with tracking down six dangerous Nexus-6 androids that have escaped from an off-world colony to Earth. Though some characters are consistent across both versions, the plots diverge significantly. In the novel, Deckard owns an electric sheep and aspires to possess a real animal, a symbol of social status due to mass extinctions. As he pursues the escaped androids, he begins to question his own humanity and the very definition of life and consciousness, contemplating whether he might be an android himself.
The novel delves deeper than the film into the ethics and philosophical questions surrounding artificial intelligence and the essence of being human. It introduces religious themes, presenting a movement called Mercerism that employs "empathy boxes" to link users in a virtual reality simulating shared suffering. This shared experience centers on the perpetual struggle of leader Wilbur Mercer, who attempts to climb a hill while being struck by falling stones. The empathy boxes envisioned by Dick can be compared intriguingly to contemporary social media.
The film’s title, "Blade Runner," has an interesting origin. While the film refers to bounty hunters as “blade runners,” Dick’s novel never uses this term. Instead, the title was borrowed from a different science fiction novel, The Bladerunner by Allen E. Nourse. Beat author William S. Burroughs wrote a film treatment for Nourse’s book, which screenwriter Fancher discovered. Director Ridley Scott was fond of the title, purchasing the rights to use it for his adaptation. While Blade Runner was the first major film based on Dick’s work, it certainly wasn’t the last. Tragically, Dick passed away shortly before the film’s release, but he reportedly appreciated the film’s vision based on a private screening he received where he was shown some clips from the film.