1. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Book of the Month: September - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by arron89, Aug 30, 2009.

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    ^ Philip K Dick

    Alright, so in the interest of not spoiling the story, this is the schedule for discussion (feel free to read faster than this, obviously - but tryto keep your ideas and questions within the timeframe)
    Sept 1-7: Chapters 1-6 (inclusive)
    Sept 8-14: 7-12
    Sept 15-21: 13-19
    Sept 22:29: 19-22

    Its a fairly short work, and quite an easy read, though that shouldn't imply that it is an easy text to think about and understand.

    So, to get your brains into discussion mode, here are a few little things to consider:

    1) In the spirit of science, consider your reading as a process of hypothesis formation and correction. How does Dick establish not only his characters and plot, but larger concepts like humanity and empathy? Are your hypotheses confirmed as you read on, or must you correct them? Is Dick aware of what his readers expect, and does he deliberately exploit this?

    2) The article inserted before the novel begins highlights the special relationship humans have to animals. How is this borne out in the novel? Has the nature of this relationship changed from 1966 when the article was written, to 1992 when the novel takes place?

    3)One of Dick's concerns in the novel is to find that which defines humanity. He constructs androids and humans as binary to begin with, and uses this model to attempt to enumerate the differences which define the two. What problems are there with this approach? Does it work? Does Dick find his difference?
    and, 3b) In this model, Deckard represents humanity as the absolute antithesis to the android. What ideas do his actions, thoughts, and interactions with other characters suggest about humanity.

    Finally, a quote from James Lovegrove that I think sums up Dick's book perfectly:
    Dick's plastic realities tell us more than we'll ever want to know about the inside of our heads and the view looking out. In his tortured topographies of worlds never made, we see mindscapes that we ourselves, in our madder moments, have glimpsed and thought real. Dick travelled out there on our behalf. It is our duty to read the reports he sent home.

    Happy reading!
     
  2. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Has anyone else started reading the book yet? I got my copy today, so I've just started.

    Something intriguing that I've noticed just in my first little bit of reading: Even in this terrible world where it seems like so much more is wrong than right, it seems like the characters are still very worried about what others think of them. Interesting...I would have expected them to be too concerned with other, more pressing matters than to really think about that.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    What could be more important than defending humanity, regardless of what it is. Social relations are one of the most important ways we define what it is to be human, so it seems that since the 'normal' humans are all off-world, that this is the new way to define humanity. Those left behind have to find a new way to validate their identities, and the care of animals, with its vital social connotations, is central to that.
     
  4. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wonder, though, why Rick didn't just dial up some # to overcome his feelings of envy about Barbour's horse.
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I thought it was probably because the animal-as-social-status-symbol (and therefore the jealousy inspired by other peoples' animals) was so deeply ingrained, that it wouldn't even occur to Rick to use the Penfield Mood Organ to change it.
     
  6. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hm, that makes sense. I have to admit feeling uncomfortable with the mood organ since it seems interchangeable with our use of pharmaceuticals these days. They don't even know what it feels like to be human, being so used to overriding any uncomfortable emotions with synthetics. {ouch :redface:}
     
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  7. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oooh, that didn't even occur to me! Very true, though.

    And Banzai, good thought about why he didn't use the mood organ. That makes sense. I'm feeling so enlightened already!

    I'm off work tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get a lot more reading done and have more to comment on. :)
     
  8. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a small note to say that I'm starting reading today and will, as such, be joining your discussion shortly.
     
  9. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yay! I've almost finished reading the book, but it's very hard for me to come up with intelligent things to say after a first read of a new book, so I'm hoping to reread it this month and add more to the discussion.
     
  10. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    So I'm done now after having neglected these forums a little of late in the last few days. Anyway, some thoughts I've had with regards to these questions:

    1) In the spirit of science, consider your reading as a process of hypothesis formation and correction. How does Dick establish not only his characters and plot, but larger concepts like humanity and empathy? Are your hypotheses confirmed as you read on, or must you correct them? Is Dick aware of what his readers expect, and does he deliberately exploit this?

    I'm less concerned with how Dick establishes humanity and empathy, rather what, once established, they achieve. Like Deckard, our initial perceptions alter but not from the binary distinction of human and not, rather a muddling of both. In particular it seems that in this dystopia, androids increasingly have personalities, a feature, of course, reserved for animate creatures (and not all of them). Luba seems vulnerable but possesses a survival instinct. Deckard empathises with these human qualities. Rosen is not terminated because of her apparent inquisitiveness which leads her to muse almost existentially. That she is physically attractice muddles Deckard's emotions as it does his mental capacity for distinguishing right from wrong. Baty is conversely portrayed in entirely unlikebale and unidentifiable light, facts Deckard takes comfort in, ultimately easing his termination.

    2) The article inserted before the novel begins highlights the special relationship humans have to animals. How is this borne out in the novel? Has the nature of this relationship changed from 1966 when the article was written, to 1992 when the novel takes place?

    For sure, this small article demands retrospective re-reading. Out of context, marooned at the beginning of the tale, it reads tellingly but without resonance. The relationship it displays is entirely different to the relationship that Dick's human characters believe is similar. The 1966 article looks back two hundred years prior encompassing a period of massive change. The world became much smaller, traditions vanished and exploitation became rife. Owning an animal then was not the same in Polynesia as it was then in the Western world. Similarly, owning an animal in Deckard's world is not the same as owning one in ours. The empathy they believe it bestows upon them is not the empathy we identify in ourselves.

    Where the animal / empathy points of discussion blur I found Dick's tale to be most interesting. Two latter-chapter examples hit it home for me. Firstly, Isiodore's chickenhead and the reader's horror at Pris's dismemberment of a spider. This is not because of the value the creature held, nor the act itself. In our world I think little to nothing of a spider, though perhaps I should. As potentially the last of its kind, more importantly as a symbol, the spider cannot be destroyed and that is why it is so effective a device. Secondly, the entirely less affecting demise of Deckard's goat. This is portrayed in report so immediately loses its first-hand action-filled impact. We feel Deckard, as he likely feels himself, has wronged Rosen, and her kind. Somehow that his status symbol is removed in vengeance or malice eases him and us. Perhaps he deserved it, certainly the goat didn't. This ambivalence is curious and the muddling effect it causes is strong, much like Deckard's inward-questioning.
     
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  11. Modern Day Zombie
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    Modern Day Zombie New Member

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    Sorry to not respond to any of these questions :p - but I'd like to make a sidenote about Dick. Has anyone read any of his later and criminally underrated books that aren't Androids, Scanner and Man in High Castle? Such as Flow My Tears, Maze of Death and the epic VALIS trilogy? I think anyone who find themselves like Androids should pick up any of those and those discuss 'em!
     

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