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It's January 2021 and Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department.  He hunts down and "retires" rogue androids (andys).  Thanks to technology from companies like the Rosen Association, it's getting increasingly hard to tell the androids from the humans, but there is an empathy test that Deckard can administer; androids don't feel empathy for humans or for each other.  Meanwhile, due to the devastation wreaked by nuclear fallout from World War Terminus, animal life is nearly sacred and pets are status symbols.  Deckard and his wife have an electric sheep just to try and keep up with the Joneses.  Also, the fallout is starting to impact the genetics and fertility of humans, so the government is advocating emigration to Mars, running a Public Service Ad that warns:  "Emigrate or degenerate!  The choice is yours!"   Amidst all of this, a new religion has arisen called Mercerism.  It's founder, Wilber Mercer, is an empath who is taking all of mankind's suffering upon his own shoulders.  Adherents transmit their pain to him through Mercer Boxes and receive inner peace in return.  Now Deckard has been given the assignment of retiring a gang of 8 andys and, to his own horror, he finds that he is starting to develop feelings of empathy for these humanoids while Mercer is telling him that it's wrong to kill the androids, but that he has to go ahead and do it anyway.

This is my favorite of Philip K. Dick's novels.  It deals imaginatively with the big themes that are central to speculative fiction, especially what is it that makes us human.  And, unlike some of his other books, he maintains the momentum of the basic story line throughout and keeps everything reasonably coherent.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Phillip Dick (4 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Phillip Dick Links:

    -The CriticalWave: an ongoing bibliographical list of Philip K. Dick's work.
    The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick: The inside-out story of how a hyper-paranoid, pulp-fiction hack conquered the movie world 20 years after his death. (Frank Rose, December 2003, Wired)
    -REVIEW: of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K Dick (Michael Moorcock, The Guardian)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: "philip k. dick"
    -Shifting Worlds of Philip K. Dick
    -The Philip Kindred Dick WWW FAQ
    -Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982 (includes cover art)
    -Philip K Dick:   A Tribute to A Master of Science Fiction
    -Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
    -Philip K. Dick reading List (SF Site)
    -Laura's Addiction : Phillip K. Dick from A to Z
    -NEWSGROUP: altfanphilipdick
    -Paranormal Experiences of Philip K. Dick
    -LINKS:  Dick, Philip K. (Lycos)
    -ESSAY : Marxist Literary Critics Are Following Me! : How Philip K. Dick betrayed his academic admirers to the FBI. (Jeet Heer, Lingua Franca)
    -ESSAY : Through a Lens Darkly : Josh Saunders on Philip K. Dick, last of the early Christians (FEED)
    -ESSAY: The Electric Dreams of Philip K. Dick (Richard Bernstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Dick's Dicks: The Future of Law Enforcement According to Philip K. Dick  (Tim Kenyon,  The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic based at the Department of English of the University of Rhode Island)
    -ESSAYS: ( A Tribute to A Master of Science Fiction)
    -ESSAY: Joyce in Philip K. Dick (The Modern World)
    -REVIEW: of Do Androids Dream... (Mystery Guide)
    -ESSAY : Dickian Time in The Man in the High Castle
    -ESSAY : Meaning in the Man in the High Castle
    -PLOTLINES in The Man in the High Castle
    -ESSAY : The Metacolonization of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle: Mimicry, Parasitism, and Americanism in the P.S.A. (Cassie Carter, Science-Fiction Studies 22.67, Nov. 1995)
    -ESSAY : Reality, Authenticity, Metafiction and The Man in the High Castle. (Ian Krykorka)
    -REVIEW : of Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick ( Mark Wilson ,
    -SHORT REVIEW: MARY AND THE GIANT. By Philip K. Dick (Nancy Forbes, NY Times Book Review)
    -SHORT REVIEW: PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND. By Philip K. Dick  (Barbara Tritel, NY Times Book Review)
    -BOOK LIST: Great Science Fiction: recommended Reading (Steve Schmidt)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Philip K. Dick (Imdb)
    -INFO : Blade Runner (1982) (Imdb)
    -BUY IT : Blade Runner (1982) DVD (
    -Blade Runner Kitchener / Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Rita Kempley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Film Written Magazine)
    -BUY IT: Total Recall (1990) DVD (
    -BUY IT: Total Recall (1990) VHS (
    -INFO : Total Recall (1990) (imdb)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (James Berardinelli's ReelViews)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (Rita Kempley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (John Hartl,

    -ESSAY: Beyond the lurid book covers : In defense of science fiction (John Clute, CNN/Salon)
    -ESSAY : Is Cyberpunk Still Breathing (ANDREW LEONARD, Salon)