02 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Graphic Novel Omnibus)

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep-omnibus.PNGBook Title: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Graphic Novel Omnibus
Author: Philip K. Dick, illustrated by Tony Parker and lettered by Richard Starkings, with essays from many other contributors
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Adults
Genres: Science Fiction
Page Count: 544
Reading time: 4 hours
Format: Ebook (library)

My impressions: I’ve read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? before as a straight-up novel, but when I stumbled upon this omnibus, I couldn’t help but add it to my reading list, because I knew it would offer a fun new take on a novel mostly known for being the basis for the classic Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. But I’ll be honest in saying I read DADOES back in high school and didn’t really understand what it was about – like many people who saw the film first, I greatly preferred its dystopian take on the world to Dick’s strange fusion of bounty hunting, persistent talk shows and invented religious faiths. (A common reaction from readers who prefer the movie is to skip the last 50 pages of the book, which are actually the crucial part where Dick finishes the story he wanted to tell.)

The aim of the graphic novel is to strip away the look and feel of the film, offer an extremely literal adaptation of the novel (using as much of Dick’s prose as possible) and really allowing readers to savor the experience. As a monthly comic, I’d have never recommended this beast – it takes 24 issues to tell the story of a fairly slim novel, and it isn’t paced appropriately for a comic book series. (For example, one entire issue of the comic was devoted to Rachel Rosen slowly seducing Rick Deckard, and it’s anything but exciting.) But as an omnibus where it’s all there and you can skip or savor the pages based on your own desired speed, it’s a really neat way to experience the story.

What I’ve always loved about this story is how it takes the optimistic 1950s and 1960s and pr0jects them into a bleak future where humanity has largely shifted to the stars because of the effects of nuclear war. Those who remain live in a hellishly mundane world where living animals are a luxury item and men have to wear lead codpieces to protect their genetic material from becoming overly affected by radiation. The bounty hunter Rick Deckard uses psychology and sociology as tools to hunt down rogue androids who are essentially sociopaths trying to blend in on Earth after escaping slavery on Mars, and the androids are smart enough to play mind games with him that are just as intriguing as the hunt. In the backdrop, there’s a deeper story about what it means to be human and about the shared experience of human empathy, a portion of the story that clearly meant a lot to Dick (and which shows up in his other work). The long denouement around Deckard’s revelation regarding Mercerism (a phony religion that plays a true deus ex machina role in his adventure) is actually a lot more fun to read in comic form since it conveys the drama more cleanly than Dick’s naked prose, and I felt like the story did a good job of making the characters more memorable, particularly the bounty hunter Phil Resch, who’s really well-realized here.

The essays in the back (which go on for dozens of pages) alternate between being very insightful and rather uninspired. A few of them spend too much time dwelling on the importance of the film rather than the source novel. The anecdotes about experiences with Philip K. Dick himself are also interesting, though probably of little value to the casual fan or first-time reader. The essays add some additional value to the omnibus, but honestly, about half of them are skiappable.

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