terça-feira, novembro 21, 2017

Reality and Illusion: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick

The one faithful film adaptation of a PKD story I'm aware of was the Linklater version of A Scanner Darkly. All the others take a major conceptual element of the story's basic premise, but then seriously alter the narrative in ways that often make them very different thematically. I really liked the Linklater film, too, because I think the "slavish" recreation of the story does a far better job of presenting the ideas that Dick had in their full nuance and depth than any other film version of his work ever has.) Most other adaptations of his work (there are some I haven't seen) tend to fall far short of that, which is really a shame. I mean, Blade Runner (the 1982 version) is a great movie. I like it a lot, but the novel has layers of philosophical depth that the film just doesn't get anywhere near. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” is one of Dick's many explorations of what was clearly his favorite philosophical topic, namely "what is the difference between reality and an illusion?" The movie is reasonably accurate in its representation of the basic plot points (a police officer hunts for escaped androids from space colonies, who are illegally living on Earth and posing as humans) but doesn't even attempt to probe the weirder, but more thought-provoking elements of the story--e.g. that the human race is actually going extinct, and that the robots' brains are distinguishable from those of humans by the robots' inability to feel empathy toward living things. Or how keeping pets has become a quasi-religious practice because there are so few living, non-mechanical things left on the Earth in general. (Or the whole weird virtual-reality religion where people experience the pain of a man who is perpetually pelted with rocks while struggling to climb a steep mountain--again, the capacity for empathy being something that people in that world see as a definitive difference between genuine life and a mere mechanical imitation of life. All of this makes “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” a classically PhilDickian work--the theme and general unsettling ambiance of existential paranoia from living in a world where nothing can be assumed to be what it appears to be, and in which the future of the Earth is to be virtually devoid of life yet filled instead with mocking superficial simulacra of life--in a way that Blade Runner, for all its own copious merits as a work of art in its own right, just isn't. And while I understand the critique, I've never personally found Dick's writing style to be bad. It's just not very literary--if what one means by "literary" is basically "florid, convoluted, and abstruse." E.g. I find that a lot of Dick's science fiction is similar in its thematic content and general tone to most of Thomas Pynchon's famous novels as well as the fact some of Phil Dick's novels seem to me to have a somewhat Beckettian feeling. But maybe that's just me. Food for thought. When I'm in the mood, I'll explore this further.

2 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

This post got me thinking about Dick, so I went to look at what I'd thought about the books of his that I've read.
Apparently, Zero.

I know I read Do Androids, but it must have been in highschool and affected me enough that I never tried another one of his. I also suspect that the movie Minority Report turned me off from trying his stuff later on. I was SURE that I'd read Johnny Mnemonic, but no where do I have a record of it.

I don't know that I really want to read any of his other stuff,to be honest. I think that the only one I'd think about would be A Scanner Darkly.

Manuel Antão disse...

I've just finished "A Scanner Darkly". Review in the works. It still holds up pretty well 20 years later when I read it for the first time.

Phil Dick has a very strange on me...still analysing it...