Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I remember the first time I became aware of Philip K. Dick, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Or, more precisely, according to the cover, the book that inspired BLADE RUNNER (in very big letters). I was about ten, and on holiday in a caravan in North Wales. That isn’t as bad as it sounds, I went every year and still go. When the sun shone (and it did, quite often), there was nothing like running around on the beaches and freezing to death in the sea. But when it rained, well, that was tea and biscuits and endless card games and books.

I’d never heard of BLADE RUNNER, of course, being ten and having the kind of parents who thought that a caravan with no TV was a good idea. But I had heard of science fiction, and so when I ran out of things to read, the nice bloke in the caravan two up gave me a copy of Androids. It was an edition that had been given away on the front cover of a magazine that he worked for, I think – he wasn’t that sure what it was, but we both agreed that it looked like my kind of thing. I settled down, and, of course, it blew me away. I know, now, that if I’d watched BLADE RUNNER and then gone back to the book, there might have been some room for disappointment. What was this guy doing blathering about sheep? But at the time, the ideas that Dick presented, the world he built in a few sentences, the melancholy of Deckard and his depressed wife, the wish, the desire, the need to own an animal – perhaps they seem a little obvious now, but at the time they were unlike anything I’d ever read.

My local library, back in London, didn’t have much Philip K. Dick in the SF section. I don’t know why – all stolen? – so it was a few years before I read another. When I found some, I went through a patch of buying up everything I could find in second hand shops, and enjoyed them all – but for me, nothing ever topped the feel of that first chapter of Androids. This is a worthy entrant into the Gollancz 50th anniversary top ten, and I hope in years to come that copies of the book will find themselves in the hands of bored children on holiday.

Marcus Gipps
Editor

Marcus

Marcus joined Gollancz as an Editor at the beginning of 2011, and is greatly enjoying the chance to work on the kind of books he’s always read. His shelves at home are groaning. Previously, he spent ten years as a bookseller for Blackwell’s, ending up as Sales Manager for their flagship London shop on Charing Cross Road. He lives with his partner, a historian and novelist, and their very small child, who is going to know more about SFF then anyone else at nursery. This may not be a good thing.
  • The first Dick’s novel I read was ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ some 25 years ago as a teenager and I was stunned – then I saw ‘Blade Runner’ and I liked it; the film accurately brings dystopian Dick’s world on the screen, the mood, depressed individuals, dehumanized society ruled by multinational corporations, alienation, endless rains… everything just matched in my mind. The only thing I find missing in ‘Blade Runner’ are animals issue, it was of essential importance in Dick’s novel…

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a fabulous monument of science or speculative fiction,but it is hardly a childrens’ book,and he must have been a very bright 10 year old to have read it at such a young age.I have to say, I’m sure I would’nt have been able to have read and conprehended Dick’s complex fiction as even an 18 year old with any ease.

    I read my first Philip K. Dick novel,A Maze of Death,when I was 21,which I have to say,prehaps needlessly,I found so brilliantly imaginative,it was almost unbelivable that a mere human being could have written and constructed such a tale.After a few more inbetween,it would still be 6 years before I would read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,an even greater novel than the first one I read,which is proberly saying something.I think by now,my tastes in reading had matured.

    I am not being critical of of anybody’s reading habits or intelligence,but it is’nt pompous to say that Philip Dick was a unique writer,like J.G Ballard, difficult to classify as a science fiction author,belonging rather to the broader realm of speculative fiction or even the prehaps loftier one of postmodernism,of which Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has been cited as an example.This is hardly within the narrower realm of children’s literature and a sense of perspective should I think be maintained.Hopefully everybody will read what appeals to them though.

    Actually,I have reab Nick and the Glimmung,which I found funny and enjoyable,and was the basis for another excellent novel,Galactic Pot Healer.

    Peace.