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Review: “2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)” by Arthur C. Clarke (4 1/2 Stars)

A future-perfect scientific adventure through the solar system which bears all the hazards of an early and epic exploration toward evolutionary destiny.

Clarke’s prophetic knowledge of science and resourceful research coupled with his straightforward sentence style and short chapters make swallowing this far future/present-day hard science tale a joy to undertake. This is a journey primarily concerned with a man versus nature narrative that is kept to in a profound way. The descriptions and suppositions which Clarke expounds upon do not slow down the narrative. Neat prose is digested as elements of the cosmos and realistic chores of long-term space travel rattle smoothly by—all while casual remarks concerning the wonders of the universe are crafted with loving and knowledgeable exposition. One certainly feels that one is traveling through space and all the difficulties which that would suppose.

The technology and environs are well-described, but so are the more mysterious otherworldly elements. This holds true for aspects of the universe that could not have necessarily been known at the time and were written as speculation, as well as holding true for those aspects being theorized about. Everything feels real and accurate. The mysteries are as palpable as the food the astronauts eat.

This story is told in multiple parts, but goes back all the way to our ancestral beginnings as it weaves its plot. There he lays his seed for mankind to discover and the resulting blossom does not disappoint.

Clarke also has a smooth way of interchanging the viewpoints of characters with an omniscient point of view which flows seamlessly throughout the book. While this might seem that it would bring distance between the reader and the characters it does not. The story is our story, as humans, and we are drawn into the narrative to see this great exploration through from its strange prehistoric origins all the way to its far-flung galactic travels.

Tension is utilized with masterful sparseness so that when it descends onto the pages the events are profound, symbolic, and thought-provoking as they reflect upon a theme Clarke has been subtly building all along. These motifs range mostly along lines of futurism with specific questions addressing artificial intelligence and evolution and creation and existentialism. Yet, all of it reaches far and wide yearning always for an almost god-like perspective of the universe. Clarke’s exploration of humanities greatest mysteries and the scientific theories with which we aim to find understanding, are forever chasing after their own tails in a wash of almost spiritual reverence. He finds a fuzzy marriage between the knowable and unknowable by the faith humans employ in their strive to do better.

Take the journey and travel back to the dawn of time for a window into mankind’s origins as this author slingshots you across the solar system toward our inevitable and greatest destiny—an evolution like no other.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/review-2001-a-space-odyssey-arthur-c-clarke

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Second Variety (1953)” by Philip K. Dick (3 1/2 Stars)

A post-apocalyptic cold war style tale early in this author’s career that contains entertaining edges and hints, emblematic of future efforts in plot ideation and explorations into uncertainties for which this author is known.

The world in which this story lies is bleak and barren, seemingly hopeless. Machines have been given a new genesis of artificial intelligence. Enter the minor “claw” universe of Philip K. Dick where Soviet forces decimated the planet in a preemptive nuclear strike and the UN responded by creating lethal, autonomous, and self-replicating robots which turned the tide in their favor.

Soldiers populate most of the narrative. Seemingly. The author does a good job of describing the stark emotion of living in such a ruined environment and also conveying the fear and trauma of having seen the vast might and precariousness created by humanity’s super weapons. This story encapsulates well the paranoias and fascinations of post-war nuclear potentials. In particular, and in typical PKD fashion, the author drills right down into the singular mind of the protagonist. After broadly painting the massive powers which hold the world in sway, PKD wastes no time in flinging the main character out into a terrible alternate existence. In this way, we the readers, feel the full weight of uncertainty and helplessness one person can feel treading among destructive titans of power.

And yet, none of the agency is lost. We still experience the character’s journey as he is sent on his mission to answer a strange request for parley amid the wastelands between the two long-warring armies. Then we truly enter the corridors of PKD’s mind as the protagonist is pitted against other individuals who he must decide whether or not to trust. Not that this author has a monopoly on questionable veracity, however it’s the clever method in which he weaves his uncertainties that makes him stand out.

In some ways this tale might be nothing new to a fan of PKD, and in that regard the manner in which things wrap up probably seems trite even for the time they were written. And yet, the sense of it all, and the way that we get inside the character’s head as he experiences the conflicts of his situation feels special. PKD has a way of exploring interesting ideas and concepts and then taking a wild left turn into the spiraling void that never seems to land the way it ought too. That’s what makes his work unique. He gives us protagonists that are sometimes barely fleshed out, but he also leaves room for us to inhabit them. There is just the right amount of detail filled in to allow us inside so that we can be taken on the strange journey which his tales usually take.

This story has these things. The setting is not particularly different. The robots are, though. They are like things we’ve seen before and things we know and things that are unimaginable, but things we can understand. Strange anomalies that populate the protagonist’s world that must be considered. The other characters feel that way, too. One wonders if that is how PKD felt sometimes. Our own world is full of odd and sometimes dangerous things that must be reckoned as we try to carry on with our existence. So read along on this entertaining narrative journey as you escape reality, only to dive deeper inside reality.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/08/20/review-second-variety-philip-k-dick

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Metropolis (1925)” by Thea von Harbou (3 Stars)

A romanticized class struggle colored by religious and occult mythology, with implacable villains full of old world venom and heroes in glorious melodrama – all set in the vast mechanized metropolis, a city dug as deep in the ground as it towers in the skies.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

This story has it all: star-crossed lovers, a tyrannical despot, a jilted mad scientist, a Frankenstein-esque robot, proletariat upheaval, noble-peasant wardrobe exchanges, chase scenes, and a natural disaster caused by man’s arrogance.

The author wrote this book in preparation for creating a screenplay penned by herself and her husband who would direct the legendary film of the same name. Not too many books are written this way—it’s not a tie-in novel, nor is it exactly a book that was adapted into a movie. It fits in a collaborative gray area, which makes it unique.

In some ways you can feel the film behind the words. The chapters can ramble on with descriptions (though a few were quite deft and achieved the stuff of legend painting vivid pictures in my mind) and abject reflections, repeated lines, but more often than not they conclude with a striking and key plot point that is either based in suspense and action or a significant character reveal. Dialog also comes across a tad stilted and fitting for the screen of the time. Not quite overacted, yet espousing with emotion.

Occult and religious symbols play a significant role in this story. Biblical passages and snatches of prayer lines can be found throughout. As can descriptions, metaphors, and allusions to creatures of mysticism and other beliefs. Her prose is steeped with continual citations, sometimes a bit laboriously for a work that would otherwise not be overly religious. Being versed in mythology the author draws from her knowledge for setting and tone as well as dialog and plot elements—most notably in familial roles. She explores this theme in interesting ways, using it in regards to an actual father and son, but also to play off the relationship of the city’s patriarch and his city; a maternal leader of the underclass; and that of creator and machine.

The characters sometimes feel like they are pawns of the author being moved about into inevitably precarious predicaments. When their choices are eventually revealed, we do find a few classic deep-seeded problems that carve out more dimension for their motivations—even if it might be revealed in a backhanded sort of way. In the end, things are shown to be interwoven in a fairly clever manner.

The action burns a bit slow until the third act as you might expect in a film. From then on things chase after the drama in bombastic development hurdling toward a sort of abrupt ending that at first blush feels a touch too didactic. After a breath, one realizes that this is the necessary conclusion promised from the beginning and however convenient it might feel it is rather touching and poignant. The director of the film had his doubts about it, but in later years reflected that the author had it right. The universality of the message feels like a parable; however, it would seem she might have been going for this. And, in that way, gave the story long-lasting relevancy and relatability.

The story only suffers a bit from age and the prose feels sort of weighed down and sluggish. This could be a victim of age, or perhaps the English translation from which it is derived. That said, its is not a long book by any means and the action and drama are all there. If you have a taste for more vintage letters that harken closer to epics and myths than this is probably something to enjoy. Especially when coupled with the film, where it can inevitably fill in a more colorful backdrop for the story expounded on screen at a time when movies lacked the capacity for sound (other than musical accompaniment, of course).

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/review-metropolis-thea-von-harbou

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “The Screwfly Solution (1977)” by Raccoona Sheldon a/k/a James Tiptree, Jr. a/k/a Alice Sheldon (short story) (4 1/2 Stars)

An epistolary narrative unraveled with increasing tension as terror reigns abomination with insect horror.

Our protagonist is concerned. She’s worried for her scientist husband who is conducting important research in the southern hemisphere. Her words reveal more than just the feelings of affection she has for him. She also makes mention of strange doings happening back home and around the world. Terrible things concerning strangers and family alike. The world, it would seem, has lost its marbles.

This story is told mostly through letters from the wife or her husband, however these are intermixed with article clippings passed along by a friend and fellow scientist. So, too, are point-of-view narratives in between the letters and periodicals. The technique allowing for personal impressions, those of strangers or authoritative voices, as well as the pure insular workings of the inner mind as the characters grapple and struggle with society devolving around them. The result being that, in a very short time, this author manages quite deftly to turn order into chaos for not only our characters, but the entire planet.

Character emotion is described strongly throughout the story. With these emotions the plot is carefully measured. Whether through the written words of letters or articles or inner monologue, there is no distance here. Every emotional beat is meted out to drive the tension forward.

But the science! And the numbers! The journals and the facts! This is hard science fiction at it’s best. A biological puzzle, a mystery—an outbreak rivaling any modern thrillers, yet holding much tighter to a poetic tone. Somehow, some way, the words used by this author paint themselves against the cosmos of the brain. They hold the heavy weight of scientific jargon, but with a vengeance that feels personal and familiar even to the wary head of a lay person such as myself. You experience the meanings, the fear behind them, the profound realizations.

These fantastical plots are ground in real life curiosities and knowledge. Researched and realized. Go ahead and look up about the germ of an idea which the story is based. It is the stuff of nightmares for sure. And here, the author, has plucked one of those nightmares and drawn forth the shadows which give them life so that we may see this horror in a new lens. Creating a horrifying tale that goes beyond simple jump scares.

Deep themes are plumbed here. Light is shined on issues of gender and on what makes a strength and what makes a weakness. These were areas which the author often preferred to explore in her own unique and subtle way. And yet, this tale is not an exercise in didactic commentary, no more than any other piece of good literature. Questions and possibilities are investigated.

In classic rhythm with all the joys of old school pulp fiction this story reaches high and far. It gazes out from one’s mind into the distant horizons of possibility for that wonderful notion of consideration that too rarely follows a reader after the last page is turned and the work is set aside. Returning in a moment of quiet contemplation of “What if….” and the thrilling silent shudder of terror which follows. Leaving an emotional resonance. Possibilities, possibilities, possibilities. Oh horror!

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/05/21/review-the-screwfly-solution-james-tiptree-jr

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Solaris (1961)” by Stanislaw Lem (5 Stars)

An interplanetary philosophical oceanic alien acid trip—to funk your mind with.

Psychological depths are plumbed in this novel from a deeply philosophical conviction. The result is a fresh narrative that neither disintegrates into a rote thriller nor loses itself in esoteric meanderings. The concept explored seems simple at first: alien contact. Humans have at long last discovered an organic living life form on another planet. However, after years of theories and failed experiments mankind has been unable to breach a dialog of communication. The result is maddening, discouraging, and a disturbing enlightenment into the human condition.

This book’s prose is fairly easy to digest despite the original author’s misgivings with the currently available translation in English. There are various eye-opening complex descriptions of the exotic alien and its puzzling behaviors which easily lend themselves to rational theory, but fail utterly when such hypothesis bears out. This is all history and a firm bolstering to the future universe created for this story. I’m not one who normally relishes hard science, but all the same I found myself wading swiftly through these heavy parts in search of the imaginative details of description that painted beautiful pictures of the scientific research efforts that surrounded the mysterious alien being; something altogether different and best-described as a myriad organism akin to an oceanic brain on a planetary scale with significant cosmic weight.

There are few characters, but they serve the story well with their various perspectives, needs, and wants. They wrestle with themselves and each other in their desire to both understand and reject what they experience. Although this is no religious story, their crisis is spiritual in many ways. It’s an esoteric journey trampling across a cascading backdrop of universal dimensions. Nothing can be known for certain and nothing can be dismissed outright. Even madness is uncertain.

Do not be fooled, however, this work is not so vague and ponderous as I allude. The protagonist’s arc is firmly grounded in a concrete dilemma that is personal, relatable, and anything but alien. He must face his own self and the terrible regrets of a life once lived–even though he is far from his home on an alien planet in an unfamiliar environment.

I find it particular genius when an author can take the idea of creating an alien in a particularly different way and make the experience completely immersive without a sense of artifice or tool. This is a challenge of deceptive difficulty and the effort here delivers in every aspect, story point, and description from beginning to end.

There is just enough of everything in this rather short book, whether it is science or philosophy or fantasy or literary angst. The historical elements and scientific theories all feel authentic and unique. The stakes are real and very individual with consequences that could have echoes across the entire universe. It’s the adventure of a mind on a quest across the galaxy. Our understanding of each other is challenged, our understanding of ourselves is challenged, and our understanding of the universe is challenged. For what—we may never know; and yet, we know that we must forever pursue these questions that seem to have no answer. That somehow the price of being human in an otherwise alien universe requires it so.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: https://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/04/16/review-solaris-stanislaw-lem

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories (1952-1960)” by Charles Beaumont (4 Stars)

Even though I know there’s going to be a twist, I still wonder how the author is going to flip things at the end.

Beaumont was one of the main writers contributing stories to Rod Serling’s scifi/horror anthology television series “The Twilight Zone.” In this select collection there are a number of short stories that were originally published in various magazines and then later adapted for the television series. There are also other non-twilight-zone stories, which reflect the author’s other interests including his love of cars and jazz music. It’s a fairly eclectic collection from an author who died too young from a strange ailment, but who put noteworthy material during his relatively short career.

Beaumont’s writing is decidedly perfect for the Twilight Zone. It’s no wonder that he fit into Serling’s vision so well. He has short straightforward pose that seeks out an inevitable twist to tie off its conclusory or sometimes ambiguous ending. While reading this book I came to expect things would be flipped on their head at some point, yet I thoroughly enjoyed wondering and waiting in anticipation for the author to perform his magic. The narratives ultimately did not feel predictable as I read them, despite my expectation.

Another thing of note, was that despite the age of these stories they all seemed fairly contemporary and relevant for the most part. This was probably due in part to the author’s inclination to skim deeper into areas of social commentary as he sped us along with his prose. These stories felt ripe for adaption into Twilight Zone episodes even though they were written for magazines first. This tendency to explore themes like environmentalism, colonialism, conforming versus individualism, spirituality and doubt, nostalgia, and dying with dignity–make the narratives more universal and timeless. It also made the twists at the end feel less like clever tricks and more a complimentary part of the greater theme being touched upon. Yet, for the most part everything was done in an entertaining way and without coming across as preachy. Beaumont was probably a bit of an adrenaline junkie and full of get up and go (on a personal level)—it seems he expected no less from his stories.

While most of the writing moved along in an entertaining way with occasional reflective views about the greater human condition, there was also more subtle efforts of craft. Beaumont was able to build and maintain with expert control, an impending and faltering sense of dread or fear in some of his characters which made for authentic and lasting pieces that were memorable after having consumed them.

These stories were a joy to read. The collection is fairly varied, but does glow with a certain Twilight Zone nostalgia through much of the writing. It’s also very easy and a pretty quick read. Highly recommended for those looking for some thoughtful entertainment, and doubly so for those of familiarity with the iconic television show that this writer was a part.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic), this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space.” The podcast is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Tune-In Radio, Stitcher, Google Play Music, YouTube or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

Episode Link: http://nodeodorantinouterspace.wordpress.com/2019/03/19/review-perchance-to-dream-charles-beaumont

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (Philip K. Dick) (4 Stars)

A mind-bending dystopian hero’s quest through the looking glass?

Summary: An impending sense of desperation pervades this gloomy romp of Dick’s arguably most famous work. The author’s prose, sometimes criticized, is a swift reading. In trying to keep up with the schizophrenic twists and turns of the story—I think that the digestible writing is well balanced. Though the dialog can be stiff in parts there is so much depth in what is going on, the work as a whole would suffer if weighed down by verbose diction.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website: www.nodeodorant.com.

*** * *** SPOILER WARNING **** * ***

Review: Rick Deckard is chasing after six renegade androids in a post-apocalyptic earth. He’s a government agent/bounty hunter, whose main task is retiring escaped androids who are trying to blend in among humans. Sounds dangerous and exciting? Maybe. However, Dick gives the character a sort of “everyman” approach. Deckard is good at what he does, but it’s just a means to an end. And what is that? Well, that’s life baby. Deckard is just trying to get through the day like everyone else, and bring home a decent paycheck so he can afford the latest, coveted creature-comforts.

In this world, that means real-life “animals.” Deckard needs to make money so he can buy a live “animal,” now a luxury in a world where nearly everything seems to be rock, plastic, metal or kipple (more on that later). World War Terminus has already rocked the planet sending a vast majority of human emigrants into the skies to establish new colonies on mars. The earth has emptied out a good number of people, and for good reason as the planet’s covered in radioactive dust. So many animals have since died off, that now it’s considered “chic” to own one. So much so that a whole cottage industry has rose up around creating fake robot animals complemented with fake veterinarians. In keeping up with appearances, Deckard replaced his recently died sheep with a robotic one. And yet he can’t quite get over it. He want’s a real one damn it, and he’ll destroy as many androids as he has to so he can make enough money to do so.

He needs to. His marriage with wife Iran is strained. Everyday they dial-in their appropriate feeling for the day through the help of a bedside console known as a Mood Organ. One of my favorite lines of the book is when Deckard is trying to get his wife to dial in a happier mood from the console and she resists claiming: “My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.” (!) And yet, even though Deckard also tries to enhance his mood with the console he remains gloomy. He’s out their searching, looking for some kind of connection. His job is starting to weigh heavy on him and all he can do is hold out a little longer until he can find that next “thing” to set matters right.

Iran (and Deckard to a different extent), finds some solace in the world religion known as Mercerism. The faith is a sort of communal virtual-reality experience where people of the world connect with one and another by watching a repetitive video of an old messiah-like figure plodding through a barren landscape of rocks. Mercer (the mysterious figure) toils along while getting occasionally stoned (and I don’t mean with drugs) by unseen forces, until he goes over this giant hill into the mysterious Tomb World. For some inexplicable reason, the worshipers, who engage this religion (also through a handheld console), experience the stoning. They even come away from the engagement with real-life injuries (though not severely). Iran seems to get something from this religion, a sense of belonging, a sense of community, which may be important in a world where mankind is slowly being siphoned away to distant planets.

Whether or not this religion is genuine is up for debate – but then, that’s faith. There is an interesting subplot woven through the story where a 24-hour vapid TV personality host attempts to debunk this would-be messiah as a fake. Dick manages to blend the lines between the virtual, spiritual, and physical world in a way that makes the reader question what is real (in a good way). Can we ever really know? Deckard finds that Mercerism, or his faith, or is it his humanity, cannot be so easily dismissed by a television expose.

As the messiah character toils uphill amid flying rocks, the reader can’t help but feel Deckard’s plight. Retire some androids. Make a little money. Buy something fancy. Then do it all again. Why? What’s the point? Mercerism seems to indicate that that is the point of everything. That’s what we all do. We slowly climb our hills, get a few rocks flung at us, and keep going. To where? The Tomb World? Who knows. The point is, we all have to do it. Nobody is exempt. It’s just a little easier to take when we can commiserate our woes with everyone else. To know we are not alone.

That’s what makes us human. Separates us from the androids. Good old-fashioned “empathy”. In fact, that’s virtually the only way (besides bone marrow testing which will require a warrant) Deckard can determine if someone is really a some thing. Deckard must administer a verbal psychological test and monitor the reaction of the suspect with the help of yet another special device. But as technology increases, the androids are becoming harder and harder to detect—some of the androids don’t even know themselves that they are androids due to false memory implants (in classic Dick fashion even robots have to question what’s real and what’s not). In a great plot point, the author let’s us know that the tried and true “Voight-Kampf” android test has flaws. Apparently, people with mental issues or “flat affects” might elicit a false positive which puts Deckard in a conundrum because he doesn’t want to be blowing away real-life humans.

The fear of finding a false-positive is not fully realized though. Much like the fear that the androids are going to “retire” Deckard before he can retire them. Dick shies away from action-packed cliff-hangers. We don’t completely fear the danger that Deckard will be killed off by an android, even though his predecessor was severely hospitalized by one and unable to speak to him about it. As other reviewers have pointed out, many of the android confrontations are over as quickly as they start. To his credit, I think this keeps the focus on the more important esoteric questions being raised rather than the adventure story used to illuminate the issues. We are there, with Deckard, wondering just as he is, why he’s doing it all? If he’s killed off, we’ll that’s not the main stake here—his sanity, sense of self, sense of morality—those are the things at stake.

Even though the androids are definitely not human, they act and feel much like humans. Deckard sees this and he struggles with it, sympathizing for the androids he is seeking to destroy. One of the female androids, Rachel, seduces Deckard, putting him in a very precarious position as she tries to influence his actions. Things get really weird (is that even possible) when Deckard is picked up by the police, who seem to know nothing about him. This is Dick in his complete mastery. Deckard is held at a “second” separate police station and questioned in such a manner that we really begin to doubt who the androids really are. Is Deckard an android? Are these “other” policemen androids? Deckard even gives himself the “Voight-Kampf” psychological test at some point.

Near the end, Deckard is really questioning himself and Rachel’s influence weighs heavily. Still, he plods along, determined to finish what he’s started. The messiah-like figure Wilbur Mercer (hence “Mercerism”) suddenly appears in the real world (as opposed to the one on the tv screens which may or may not be real) to help him through.

For me, the most jolting scene in the whole book is when Deckard comes home after having completed his mission. After knowing he’s earned his bounties he decided to finance the purchase of a real-life goat. It’s a capitalistic bid for happiness, but Deckard seems sincere in his effort. After all his hard work and toil he comes home only to be told by Iran that Rachel (the android he’s spared), pushed the goat off their building to its death. Deckard seems to have done all for naught.

This would have been a real poignant place to end. However, we continue on with the character for a few more chapters when he lumps it, and heads out into the vast desolate wilds of the world. Again, things go from strange to stranger when Deckard begins toiling up a real life rocky hillside that too closely resembles the one Wilbur Mercer is always climbing. When at last he comes down again, he happens upon a little toad. Amazed, he looks up the animal in his trusty catalog and finds out they are supposed to be extinct. Suddenly, everything looks hopeful again. To have a found a real life animal—an extinct one! He’ll be able to sell the thing for untold riches. Deckard races back home to share the news with his wife. Tenderly she flips the animal over and points to the electrical panel beneath. Another fake. Defeat again.

Yet, Deckard returns home, not to plug in to the mood organ and zone out of life. Instead, he falls asleep. Unaided and disconnected from the artificial technologies of his world. He seems to get some comfort from being near to his wife instead of all the contraptions of the world. And, the android Rachel, by killing his goat, has shown him the foolishness of letting his happiness rely solely on materialistic things. Perhaps Deckard’s relentless pursuit of the androids was rote and mechanical. Was Deckard acting the part of the android in his role as bounty hunter? Did the androids act more like living things in their urge to resist “retirement” (or death)? Maybe Dick was trying to say that it is our actions that define us, rather than what we may claim to be?

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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