When the topic of sci-fi/P.S.s comes up for air, so does the Ridley Scott's grim and gritty film Blade Runner, and, occasionally, the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? it was loosely (very loosely) based on.
The film, a stylish chunk of cyber-noir, starring Harrison Ford, is a film classic, no doubt. But a flawed one, at least as originally released. RICK DECKARD is a former cop who's recruited to track down and "retire" runaway replicants for the bounty on their heads, in 2019 Los Angeles. The film is visually stunning, full of gloomy, smoke-filled shots of an over-crowded and decaying city, rife with corruption. Deckard is a loner, an angst-ridden killer who's started to identify more with the androids he's hunting down than the humans he's supposedly protecting. A provocative, intelligent, challenging, beautifully-photographed film, ruined by the phony, tacked-on happy shiny ending (where did all that sunlight come from?) that the studio supposedly insisted on. A director's cut version is available, which removes Harrison's voiceover narration and the last scene, which Scott felt was too "up," and adds a sequence or two that adds a whole other level. Get that one.
The book, on the other hand, is a stone dead classic, by one of the renowned masters of sci-fi. Well, as long as you don't actually read it.
And I'm not sure it even really qualifies as a private eye novel. Rick Deckard, in print, also tracks down fugitive androids, but he's a cop, a salaried employee of the city. He's hopelessly middle-class, with a bad case of coveting his neighbour's horse, and a loveless marriage to a wife addicted to her empathy box. In this future, L.A. is under-populated, due to massive mounts of radiation, and the majority of the planet's people have emigrated to other worlds. A consequence of the fallout is the extinction of almost all animal life on earth, and therefore, owning an actual animal becomes the ultimate status symbol. For those unable to afford one, such as lowly-paid civil servants such as Rick, lifelike replicas are available. Rick, to his chagrin, can only afford an electric sheep. But when a gang of renegade androids make their way to earth, Rick sees his chance for a ticket to Easy Street. Under a relatively straightforward, rather plodding tale lies a complex novel which questions our notions of identity, empathy, religion and morality.
Recommended reading, maybe, but don't expect it to have much to do with the subsequent film. Or with keeping you up at night flipping pages. And the word "blade runner" never appears in the book.
Sci-fi author K.W. Jeter has successfully continued the adventures of the film Deckard in two sequels to the film, and added a few pretty nifty touches of his own, and has recently started another series, set in the same nasty Los Angeles, featuring information cop McNihil, who has a fetish for the classc fim noirs of the 1940's.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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