My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It is impossible to read this book without comparing it to the iconic movie, but both stand up well on their own as distinct art pieces. There is overlap, but they are so different it’s like chocolate chip cookie dough compared against cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream–both are pretty good!
The book makes the “electric sheep” rather literal–fake sheep, in a world where owning an animal is a statement about wealth. In fact, it’s Deckard’s driving motivation. He is desperately embarrassed about his electric sheep and longs to upgrade to a real animal. This need is both sort of amusing and deeply philosophical in line with the story. Does it matter if something is real if you have to do all the same motions to keep up status when it is fake? (Pretending to feed and groom your electric sheep, for example, so your neighbors don’t find out). This question of “what is real?” is returned to again and again.
However, this is classic sci-fi, so it comes with some problems. Apparently Dick can easily imagine androids and Mara colonization by 1991…but women can only be secretaries or housewives. And midway through the book Dick developed some kind of fascination with breasts. I laughed out loud when one description read, “she glanced at her husband, her breasts rising and falling,” as of her bosom were somehow autonomous and just moving of its own volition.
But despite that, and despite his strong preference for the word “ersatz,” this is absolutely worth the read.