Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (AKA Blade Runner)

I picked this book because I saw a friend reading it. The original title is ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ and was made into the very famous SciFi movie ‘Blade Runner’ starring Harrison Ford. It was written by the very famous Philip K. Dick, author of a very interesting set of novels: A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall, Screamers, Minority Report, Paycheck, among others. He’s a very prolific writer and I strongly urge everyone to read at least one of his novels. The only other book I’ve read by him is A Scanner Darkly which was great.

I never saw Blade Runner, and I was advised to read the book first, so I took the opportunity. Overall I loved the story. It’s set in a fictional 2021 (actually 1992 in the original version). Remember that Dick wrote this in the 60’s. There has been some sort of nuclear fallout and most of the population of Earth has moved to ‘the colonies’ on Mars. There has even been some sort of expedition to proxima centauri (the closest star to our solar system). Humanoid Robots (androids) have been invented and perfected, and now are used heavily in the colonies. However, some of these androids escape their life of servitude and flea to Earth to live in peace. Earth does not want androids living amongst them, so the police departments employ bounty hunters to ‘retire’ all androids found.
Wildlife is rare, and it is consider a position of stature to own one. For instance, owning a sheep would make you look very good, where as owning something smaller would be something more of a ‘norm.’ The main character in this story, Rick Deckard, owns an electric (or fake) sheep because his real sheep died. The electric sheep is made to look like a real one so as not to lose social stature. Deckard is an android bounty hunter, and this story tells of his journey in retiring many androids.
Philip K. Dick has a way of writing that is hard to describe. He is very philosophical and spacey. His stories ask odd questions, and can appear to be making no sense. The title of the book, for instance, leaves the reader feeling like they’ve missed something. I personally love his style of writing precisely because of this. I like that everything is not spelled out for me. It keeps me thinking days later.
I strongly recommend reading any one of Dick’s books, not necessarily this one. But of the two I’ve read, I would consider him a great writer.
happy reading!

Book Review: The Road

This book was written by Cormac McCarthy, who also authored No Country for Old Men. Both books have been made into movies since, and No Country did really well. I haven’t seen The Road yet, which I think was to my benefit when reading. I find that seeing a movie before reading the book usually ruins the book. It’s not the story that gets ruined, but the characters and settings. When you see the movie, you see the interpretation of the book by the director, not necessarily what the author wanted to portray, and also, you see the characters as the actors. Movies steal away your ability to create the character in your head, to give them subtle tweaks and trims to bring that character alive. When I see a movie first, I can’t UNlearn the way the character already looks. Anyway, enough of that..

The Road was great! At first, I found it really hard to start reading. The interesting thing about this book is that it has no chapters. It’s one entire book. It’s short too, almost like a novella, but longer. McCarthy also doesn’t utilize quotations when the characters are talking, he simply puts in what they say as part of a sentence. I found this hard to read at first, but then the genius of it started to dawn on me…

The story follows a man and his son who are trying to survive a post-apocalyptic america. Whatever events lead to the destruction of the world are left out, the story focuses on the bond and love between the son and the father. McCarthy’s dives into the feelings and thoughts of the man as he tries to provide for his son. The dangers are many. The weather is almost unbearable, they have little supplies, little food, barely have clothes, and the cold of winter is coming fast. The worst however is other people. Not only will random survivors steal your stuff at knife/gun point, there are also large groups of people who kidnap and eat people to survive. The man desperately protects his son from the dangers of the road, as they slowly walk their way south and to the coast, looking for warmth and food.

The book was a bit depressing, I felt sad for the two of them and the many hardships. Worst of all, I felt sorry for the boy and all he had to go through at such a young age. The emotion that is brought forward through these characters was amazing. McCarthy’s depiction of their struggle was real and touching. But depressing though it was, I think there is a beauty to the connection the boy and the man have.

I definitely recommend this book, it’s a quick read and one you won’t forget!

Book Review: A Clockwork Orange

In a word: brilliant.

The book is rather short compared to most novels, but what it lacks in length it makes up for imagination and stunning detail. This book inspired the controversial film of the same name directed by Stanley Kuprick (go watch Full Metal Jacket, The Shinning, 2001: A Space Oddessy) so if you’ve seen the movie you know the basics of the plot, but you were unfortunately stripped of the final chapter, which Kuprick decided not to include in his adaptation. Therefore, I recommend that you read this book whether you’ve seen the movie or not..

This is a 1st person narrative told by a young man named Alex, of age 15, who is part of a youth gang in a distopian britian. The first thing anyone who read this book would notice is that the narration is done in a language that barely resembles english. It’s actually a slang language used by the youth of the time. This actually makes it difficult to get into the book, as you’re constantly trying to figure out exactly what the words mean, but, as the introduction to the book states, those who are able to persevere beyond the first couple paragraphs will never forget the experience.

In his gang, Alex and his friends cause mayhem: thieving, mugging, fighting, raping, and all other manner of horrible things a gang can do in the dark of the night. And even more he ENJOYS it. He decribes in detail the blood and horror that he and his gang inflict on the innocent. Then Alex and his friends go home and wake up and head to school like good little boys.

The gang eventually becomes fed-up with Alex’s self-proclaimed leadership. In mutinous fashion, they leave him high and dry during a robbery/beating/murder and Alex is sent to jail. Alex wants nothing more to get out of jail as soon as possible, and eventually learns of a treatment that could he could be subjected to, which will shorten his sentence from 15 years to 2 weeks. Alex signs up for this treatment ASAP with no prior knowledge of what it entails.

The treatment, designed to turn a ‘bad’ person ‘good,’ is administered by Dr. Brodsky and his team. This requires injecting the patient with a liquid that makes them feel absolutely horrible, and then showing them videos of terrible things like murdering, raping, burning, etc. Eventually the person learns to associate the things society hates (and alex LOVED) with the pain and sickness that he experience during the treatment, thereby, ‘curing’ him of his wicked ways. And how it works! Alex is sent out into the world a changed man, and can no longer even THINK of acting the way he used to without fear of vomiting and pain.

There is much more of the book to read after this, but i would rather let it be discovered by itself. In the end the major theme of the book can be captured in the question: is it better to be forced to be good, rather than choosing to be bad? The main character, although acting like a model citizen, no longer possess the basic right of all humans: free will. He cannot choose to be who he wants. He is not a free man when he walks out of that prison at all. But is that a bad thing? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to think about.

I definitely recommend this book. It’s challenging in its reading, interesting in its themes, and a warning of the possible extremes of government control.


Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

I read this book by Ray Bradbury because I enjoy when author’s take a look at the censorship we see in today’s society and extrapolate to the future. 451 did not dissapoint.

It was an imaginative look at how society controls the spread of written literature of the past. All books with any artistic drive at all were considered bad and burned on sight. This was the job of fire men, who our main character was. Fire men don’t STOP fires in 451, the START fires. They go around to all the places that people think have books, find them, and burn them. The main character even takes pleasure in his work, he goes by the name of Guy Montag. He enjoyed seeing all the books of the past being taken from this world…until he meets a young woman who makes him think twice about his work.

Almost unconsciously, Montag ends up stealing books eventually reading them. He doesn’t even know what the words mean, he just knows he should be reading. He continues to dive into the world of literature, and finds more people like him. It was a great book.

That being said, under the genre of over-manipulating controlling government and society, I would place Bradbury’s interpretation at the bottom of my (rather short) list. Orwell’s 1984 is easily the BEST book in this genre, and still one of my top 5 books of all time. Brave New World also a great book in this genre. So if you like reading these types of books 451 is definitely a good choice.

As for me, I think I’ve had enough, I need something different. I think I’m gonna take a stab at the famous ‘The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This book is ENORMOUS so i’m expecting it to be a long read. But I read ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoevsky a little while ago and LOVED it, so I’ll enjoy the extra reading….

Book Review: Brave New World

I just finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and overall I recommend it as a very interesting and thought inducing read. It would be from under the same category as 1984 by George Orwell, but more in the direction as the movie GATTICA. It tells the story of a few central characters, living in the near future. Society has become highly controlled and conditioned, where from the beginning, and I mean the BEGINNING of your life, you are warped, molded, and pushed into a pre-determined life. But don’t take this in the wrong way, because 99% of the people in this society absolutely love their lives. They’re happy at their jobs, they have carefree lives. People have carefree (and disease free) sex, with no repercussions. Some of the women are sterilized from birth, some take potent birth control treatment. There are no longer the ‘mother’ and the ‘father.’ Society raises children in a highly controlled environment.

The backbone of the whole process seems to be the idea of sleep conditioning, that is, they play recordings for people in their sleep of basic rules for living. This is where they learn to not care about sex, to not want a father or a mother, to not create lasting attachment of any kind to other people, to not be scared of death, and to do the jobs they are pre-destined to do.

The people are even divided into classes based on the hormones they were allowed as a fetus. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon. The Alphas do the most important work, e.g. writer for newspaper, the Epsilons do the most mundane work, e.g. cab driver. As fetuses straight through to adolescents, the process conditions you to be perfect for whatever class you’ve been given. It’s really amazing how perfect the society is, and how well they are able to keep this ‘machine’ going.

Of course, there are the people who do not accept the way society is, or feel odd in its rules, enter one of our main characters Bernard Marx (I know…Marx), who does not accept the ‘program’ and ends up destroying his social credibility. This entails visiting ‘the old world’ and meeting ‘savages’ and then bringing one back to his home. The whole story is a very interesting look at where our society might take us, and has a completely different take on it than my favorite story of all time, 1984 (Please read that book).

As you may see on the cover of the book, there is another book inside called Brave New World Revisited also by Aldous Huxley, which is a reflection on what Brave New World predicted and what came true. I have NOT read this yet, but I will in the future…..

NEXT BOOK: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury