Last week I finished reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Phillip K Dick. A long overdue read as Bladerunner, the 1982 Ridley Scott film adapted from the book, has been one of my favorite films since I can recall seeing it.
I must admit, part of my motivation for going back to read the short novel was the rumor that R.Scott is planning and writing stage of a sequel to the original BladeRunner. It was my hope to get glean some kind of character, theme, or loose end that might give a clue as to what could drive a sequel. To be honest, I’m not sure I could really extract much in way of loose tendrils of plot line that could give way to a sequel in the either book or movie. They both seem really complete in their storytelling and presentation. At the same time, the futuristic world created in Bladerunner really does beckon to be revisited. No other sic fi film I can think of so redefined the way the future was presented in cinema and popular culture.
It was a real joy reading this classic and it really gave me a chance to appreciate how prophetic PK Dick was in his writing. This line in reference to Deckard’s search for Max Polokov who has disguised himself as a waste management employee hints at the growing industry of trash disposal:
“The scavenger building impressed him; large and modern, it held a good number of high-class purely office employees. The deep-pile carpets, the expensive genuine wood desks, reminded him that garbage collecting and trash disposal had, since the war, become one of Earth’s important industries”
One of the most striking ingredients of the book that, though hinted at in the film, really takes center stage in the book is the role of animals. In the post war, radioactive fallout Earth we find that many many species of animals have been wiped out all together. In their place, many people are left with facsimile, android animals to fill the companion gap left by the decimation of the animal kingdom.
We sense an almost shamanic reverence for the animals in the book and at the same time a characteristic objectification of them because of there rarity. A thriving market and black market for all manner of species both organic and synthetic. Deckards entire motive in the book, it seems, is to whack the replicants to make enough from the rewards to purchase a real living animal to replace his robotic sheep. A real living animal being a more prized status symbol. In this case, a kind of future dystopic version of ‘keeping up with the Jones’.
One of my favorite parts of the book and film is when Deckard meets Rachel and Eldon Rosen/Tyrel at the Rosen/Tyrel Corporation in Seattle. The scene in both features an owl (bohemian grove anyone?). Though, whereas in the film Rachel indicates that the owl is artificial, in the book she proclaims it is real, even though owls are extinct. Rachel then not so subtly attempts to bribe Deckard by offering him the owl.
There is some subtext here that the owl is significant to Deckard in some other way, as if some echo had been planted into his memories or subconscious. One of the many subtle jests in the book, that Deckard is, in fact, also a replicant.
There is some debate as to whether the film sequel to Bladerunner will take place somewhere near Tanhauser Gate or some other locale in space where the replicants broke free and returned to EArth. This could be an interesting premise, but I think part of the magic of Bladerunner is in exploring this post-migratory Earth PK Dick imagined. In it we find his distinctive warnings of environmental collapse, as well a call towards appreciation for the sphere nature that we still have left here today.