Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

“If you have it, does it matter if it’s real?”

Overview: San Francisco lies under a cloud of radioactive dust. The World War has killed millions, driving entire species to extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can't afford one, companies build incredibly realistic fakes: horses, birds, cats, sheep...even humans. Rick Deckard is an officially sanctioned bounty hunter tasked to find six rogue androids. They're machines, but look, sound, and think like humans

So yes, I’ve finally read “The novel that inspired Bladerunner” and although BOTH movies are great, the book was far superior. This was my 2nd Philip K. Dick book after A Scanner Darkly and this man’s imagination is astounding. This kind of novel defies understanding. 

One of the biggest themes in the story is empathy, something that distinguishes humans from androids. The novel asks us what deserves our empathy, and twists that in surprising ways. Once we start to see the androids as something akin to human, the book goes a completely different direction.

One of the more interesting aspects of this book was how real animals became pricey commodities and a symbol of status. Decker, the main character, desires a living animal, and he obsesses over it to an almost comical degree. This is where the title comes in, he owns an electric sheep and wonders if the androids have their own humanlike desires. I’d highly recommend this book to any SF fan, even if you’ve already seen the movie. 

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

“He has a habit of repeating himself. So it goes”

Overview: Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

This book is oddly engaging, unpredictable and just plain weird. This type of work can not be copied because it so utterly original.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, I had never read Vonnegut before and didn't know what this book would be like. Vonnegut does an excellent job mixing history with war criticism and science fiction. It seemed to me an unlikely combination, which is probably why this book is so peculiar.

The premise is simple: we follow the non-linear narrative as told by Billy Pilgrim, sandwiched between the author-narrator’s opening and closing chapters – so from that perspective, it makes for an unexpectedly different read if you’re used to going from A to Z.

The circumstances surrounding the bombing of Dresden during World War II are central to the story, not only the author-narrator’s fascination with it, but also the role it plays in Billy’s life. What I liked about Billy’s narrative is that we’re never sure whether his alien abduction and apparent time-traveling has any basis in reality, and I’m quite a fan of this sort of ambiguity. 

Vonnegut also put himself, along with his characters, into the story, which is weird since Martin Amis did the same thing in his book Money, which I just finished.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.jpg

“There is never a right time to fall in love”

The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and burgeoning sexuality. It is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo.

This was the second Murakami book I read this year and similar to the first one, there’s an ease with his style of writing that puts you right in the middle of every scene he’s describing.

The story is about the life of a Japanese university student in the late 60s and his relationships with different women as a student. At some points, I thought, “Why am I so invested in the characters of an angsty romance novel?” But having thought about it, Norwegian Wood is so much more than that. It’s about life, loss, love, and everything in between. The ending caught me off guard, but I felt complete with it - sort of thinking to myself, “well of course that’s how it had to end.”

Reading Murakami, as an aspiring writer, is challenging. Part of me loves his works, and the other part of me thinks, “Well, this Japanese author is as good as it gets, there’s no topping it.” Despite the internal jealousy and unrelenting fascination with how he uses his words, I look forward to reading more Murakami in the future.