Well… Dick really does write like the speed freak he was.
For those of you in the know, this book was the basis for the very famous film Blade Runner. And, although I might be uttering blasphemy, the film was better.
Do Androids is the story of Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter hired by the San Franciso police force to “retire” androids who make their way back to Earth from human colonies off planet. Humans have mostly abandoned Earth post nuclear holocaust, and all that remain are a few people too poor or stupid to leave.
The title of the book is a play on the Deckard’s main obsession in life, to own a real sheep. Most of the animals have died, and the Earth is in a rapid decline. Consequently, it is the responsibility of all people to own and support and animal. Why? I still have no idea. You notice that this motif was left out of the film.
Dick’s idea plays, as many sci-fi books do, on a distopian future in which the boundaries of what it is to be human, and especially empathetic. The religion of this future Earth is based on “Mercerism”, the basis of which is the need to emphatise with animals and other humans, if not only to distinguish humanity from the androids.
While Dick tries to unpack the issues of artificial versus “natural” life-forms, the pulpy nature of his writing just seems to get in the way. Sometimes key events will take place that are glossed over so quickly it’s hard to follow the action, and sometimes non-key events are dragged out for pages while Dick seems to explore small ideas, tinkering with them and allowing himself an indulgence of relatively meaningless action.
One again, this book smacks of a long stream of consciousness. There is the glimpse of some great ideas in the book, and they must have been remarkable for their time, but Dick doesn’t seem to have given himself enough space to really work through the implications of what it was he was writing.
So, only read if you’ve not seen the movie, and are something of a buff for mid-c20th sci-fiction.