Two of Philip K. Dick best-known works are Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and A Scanner Darkly. The latter was, of course, turned into a movie starring Keanu Reeves whereas the former is better known as the ‘source’ of the movie Blade Runner. Both stories firmly established the late great PKD as the father of the noir science fiction subgenre, Cyberpunk. With a rise of interest it Dick’s work, it is perhaps no surprise that the Folio Society, those producers of books that look lovely on the shelf, have given us a volume that contains both these ‘must-have’ works.
The novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the most read of Dick’s work, and fortunately for his legacy, also the most typical and accessible example of his work. Set in a post-nuclear world, Detective Deckard wishes to improve his status by owning a live animal. Something only those with high status and wealth can post-war. His job is to ‘retire’ five Nexus-6 androids. However, this is not an action adventure story. It is a rather detailed and engaging tale of a world where even one’s sense of reality is frequently called into question, where ‘being human’ is something up for debate. Blunt, bleak and rambling it is never the less a fascinating read.
The similarly short A Scanner Darkly is a different sort of affair but completes the brief ‘sampler’ of Dicks work. It is the story of an undercover policeman who, due to an administrative error, is assigned to monitor his own undercover identity. The protagonist is sent to infiltrate the drop-outs, drug addicts and street people of California by becoming one, all the while using technology to critically assess his altered state of mind and steady decline. It is a tale of madness and fear. Whereas the other story is about the discovery of identity and meaning, this tale explores the loss of self. They bookend each other well, but it’s hardly light reading.
This is a Folio Society version so, of course, it’s very, very pretty. It does the ‘flippy book thing’, which means it has two front covers. One is on one side, and if you flip the book over, rather than seeing a back cover, you’ll see the front cover for the other. It’s soundly constructed, as you expect: quarter-bound in blocked cloth, screen printed cover and the font Mentor with Neptune. We get twelve plates plus a double page spread illustration, and the artwork is appropriately different and engaging. Archer’s work is arresting and strange, which fits Scanner perfectly well and Skinner produces cold yet striking images for Electric Sheep. The art is a fantastic match throughout and adds to the story gracefully and neatly.
A must-have for fans of Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner and fine science fiction novels.
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? & A SCANNER DARKLY / AUTHOR: PHILIP K. DICK / ILLUSTRATORS: CHRIS SKINNER AND ANDREW ARCHER / PUBLISHER: THE FOLIO SOCIETY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW