Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author(s) Philip K. Dick
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 1968
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 210 pp
ISBN 0-345-40447-5
OCLC Number 34818133
Followed by Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick first published in 1968. The main plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter of androids, while the secondary plot follows John Isidore, a man of sub-normal intelligence who befriends some of the androids.

The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic near future, where the Earth and its populations have been damaged greatly by Nuclear War during World War Terminus. Most types of animals are endangered or extinct due to extreme radiation poisoning from the war. To own an animal is a sign of status, but what is emphasized more is the empathic emotions humans experience towards an animal.

Deckard is faced with "retiring" six escaped Nexus-6 model androids, the latest and most advanced model. Because of this task, the novel explores the issue of what it is to be human. Unlike humans, the androids possess no empathic sense. In essence, Deckard probes the existence of defining qualities that separate humans from androids.

The book's plot served as the primary basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner.



Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in 1992 (2021 in later editions), years after the radioactive fallout of World War Terminus destroyed most of Earth. The U.N. encourages emigration to off-world colonies, in hope of preserving the human race from the terminal effects of the fallout. One emigration incentive is giving each emigrant an "andy" — a servant android.

The remaining populace live in cluttered, decaying cities wherein radiation poisoning sickens them and damages their genes. Animals are rare and people are expected to keep them and help preserve them. But many people turn towards the much cheaper synthetic, or electric, animals to keep up the pretense. Prior to the story's beginning Rick Deckard owned a real sheep, but it died of tetanus, and he replaced it with an electric one.

The main Earth religion is Mercerism, in which Empathy Boxes link simultaneous users into a collective consciousness based on the suffering of Wilbur Mercer, a man who takes an endless walk up a mountain while stones are thrown at him, the pain of which the users share. The television appearances of Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends, broadcast twenty-three hours a day, represents a second religion, designed to undermine Mercerism and allow androids to partake in a kind of consumerist spirituality. It is revealed that neither Mercer nor Friendly are actual humans despite popular belief.


Androids are used only in the Martian colonies, yet many escape to Earth, fleeing the psychological isolation and chattel slavery. Although made of biological materials and physically all but indistinguishable from humans, they are considered to be pieces of machinery. Police bounty hunters, such as Rick Deckard, hunt and retire (kill) fugitive androids passing for humans. Often, Deckard's police department will collect and analyze the corpses of suspected "andys" to confirm that they are, in fact, artificial.

Earlier androids were easier to detect because of their limited intelligence. As android technology improved, bounty hunters had to apply an empathy test — the Voigt-Kampff test — to distinguish humans from androids, by measuring empathetic responses, or lack thereof, from questions designed to evoke an emotional response, often including animal subjects and themes. Because androids are not sympathetic, their responses are either absent or feigned, and measurably slower than a human's. The simpler Boneli Test, used by another police department in San Francisco, measures the reflex-arc velocity in the spinal column's upper ganglia, by testing their reaction time to visual stimuli. However, the only way to be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that an individual is an android is to take a bone marrow sample.

Plot summary

The novel follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard through one day of his life, as he tracks down renegade androids who have assumed human identities.

The novel begins with Deckard feeling alienated from his wife who, he feels, is misusing her mood organ by choosing inappropriate moods, like depression. Deckard meets Rachael Rosen when traveling to Rosen Industries to test the validity of an empathy test on the new android type: the Nexus 6. Rachael is an attractive female android Deckard initially believes to be human. Rachael believes herself to be human as she has memories implanted from the niece of her manufacturer. She attempts to turn Deckard away from bounty hunting. Deckard becomes confused about humanity, morality and empathy. He is arrested after attempting to retire the second android and taken to what appears to be a fully functional and publicly accessible police station—but it is not a police station Deckard knows about. Deckard escapes with fellow bounty hunter Phil Resch after deducing that the station is staffed by androids. His moral quandary deepens after working briefly with Phil Resch, who Deckard learns is a particularly callous fellow bounty hunter.

Deckard's story is interwoven with that of J.R. Isidore (a surname Dick also used in Confessions of a Crap Artist), a driver for an animal repair shop who cannot qualify to leave Earth due to his low IQ. Isidore lives alone in a nearly entirely empty apartment building with little outside contact other than his Empathy Box. Pris Stratton, an android identical in appearance to Rachael, moves into the building and the lonely Isidore attempts to befriend her. Pris and her friends get Isidore to help them trap Deckard as he comes to retire them. Once Deckard realizes the size of the challenge ahead, he enlists Rachael to help him, and they proceed to have sex. By Deckard's having sex with her, Rachael hoped to stop him from bounty hunting, but he remains determined and instead leaves her. Deckard nevertheless succeeds in killing the androids, causing Isidore to break down from the loss of his only friends, and earning Deckard a citation for a near record number of kills in one day. He returns home and his wife reports having seen Rachael Rosen kill his real pet goat. He understands that Rachael was taking revenge and is thankful that the loss is only financial; the android could instead have killed his wife.

He travels to an isolated desert to meditate and has an epiphany. He also finds a toad, thought to be extinct and considered to be Mercer's favorite animal. Deckard brings it home, where his wife discovers that the toad is in fact synthetic. Deckard is not glad but "prefers" to know the toad is artificial.



In 1982, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples' loose cinematic adaptation became the film Blade Runner, which was directed by Ridley Scott. The international success of Blade Runner[1] helped bring Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its author into the public eye. For that reason, after 1982 some editions of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? were branded with the title Blade Runner.


The novel has been released in audiobook form at least twice. A version was released in 1994 that featured actors such as Matthew Modine and Callista Flockhart. It was an abridged version running approximately three hours over two audio cassettes.[2]

A new audiobook version was released in 2007 by Random House Audio to coincide with the release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. This version, read by Scott Brick, is unabridged and runs approximately 9.5 hours over eight CDs. This version is a tie-in, using the Blade Runner: The Final Cut film poster and Blade Runner title.[3]


A stage adaptation of the book, written by Edward Einhorn, ran from November to December 2010 at the 3LD theater in New York.[4]

Comic book

In 1982, a comic book adaptation of the film called A Marvel Comics Super Special: Blade Runner was released by Marvel Comics. It was written by Archie Goodwin with art by Al Williamson, Ralph Reese and Dan Green.

Beginning in 2009, BOOM! Studios started publishing a 24-issue comic book limited series adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, containing the full text of the novel.[5] In April 2010, Boom! Studios announced a follow up comic was in production. Dust To Dust is an eight issue miniseries starting on May 26, 2010 and written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Robert Adler.[6]


Three novels intended to serve as sequels to both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner have been published: Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human (1995), Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night (1996), Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon (2000). The official and authorized novels were written by Philip K. Dick's friend, K. W. Jeter. They continue the story of Rick Deckard and attempt to resolve many of the differences between the novel and the film.


  • 1968 - Nebula Award nominee[7]
  • 1998 - Locus Poll Award, All-Time Best SF Novel before 1990 (Place: 51)

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


Further reading

  • Dick, Philip K. (1968). Do androids dream of electric sheep? New York: Ballantine Books, 1996. ISBN 0-345-40447-5. First published in Philip K. Dick: Electric Shepherd, Norstrilla Press.
    Zelazny, Roger (1975). "Introduction"
  • Scott, Ridley (1982). Blade Runner. Warner Brothers.
  • The Electric Sheep screensaver software is an homage to Do Androids dream of electric sheep?.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Worlds Without End


  • Benesch, Klaus. "Technology, Art, and the Cybernetic Body: The Cyborg As Cultural Other in Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", Amerikastudien/AmericanStudies, 44:3, 1999, pp. 379–92.
  • Butler, Andrew M. "Reality versus Transience: An Examination of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner", Philip K. Dick: A Celebration [Programme Book], Merrifield, Jeff (ed.) Epping Forest College, Loughton: Connections, 1991.
  • Gallo, Domenico. "Avvampando gli angeli caddero: Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick e il cyberpunk", Lo sguardo degli angeli: Intorno e oltre Blade Runner, Bertetti and Scolari (eds.), Torino: Testo & Immagine, 2002, pp. 206–18.
  • Galvan, Jill. "Entering the Posthuman Collective in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Science-Fiction Studies # 73, 24:3, 1997, pp. 413–29.

External links

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