Retro Review – “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

I absolutely love Phillip K. Dick.  After having read five or so of his novels, I might even say he’s my favorite.  He’s dark, intelligent, and humorous.  Some of his plots are so masterfully subversive to a person’s awareness that if you do in fact come across that moment of clarity in a novel, it can be a frighteningly mind blowing experience.  That being said and now aside, this retro review is more of a comparison to the story’s Hollywood counterpart, “Blade Runner.”

My inspiration for reading “Do Androids Dream…” came from the fact that, while in my twenties and having seen “Blade Runner,” but never having read Phillip Dick, a cinephile friend of mine who was also really into, ahem, Dick was obsessing over a book about the production of the film, “Blade Runner”.  He introduced to me the idea that elements in the film implied that Deckard (the main character) was in fact an Android.  This seems to be a very Dick-like scenario and would have several implications to the meaning of the story overall.

With this in mind, I began to carefully read the story in search of clues.  What I found was something similar to the film I saw so long ago, yet also very different.

What struck me upon beginning the novel was the level of satire that Dick uses to introduce the human characters.  The air of the novel is something comical.  A biting grin at an exploded view of social struggle.  What is your duty?  How far will you go to fulfill it?  Will you kill for your country?  For your family?  This is something that we do not encounter in the film.  I believe this silly depiction of humans also attests to the fact that Deckard’s character is in fact intended to be human.  There, I said it.  Everything in the story implies that Deckard is human – his mundane social struggle, his tiring effort to abolish the threat of non-humans, and his religious experiences all imply that Deckard is in fact just a stupid human.

To be frank, this was a great novel – so good in fact that I read it nearly strait through in about seven hours time.  This sort of feat is unprecedented for a scatter-brained mutant like myself.  A great novel indeed.  Guess what, though?  This is probably a first for me, but…

The film was better.

The film was better because it cut out everything that made the novel unique and good – particularly the comical view of everyday life and the non-sequitur religious struggle that Deckard has – which bares no real weight in the story overall.  It focused more on characters and their conflicts.

While in Dick’s novel these ideas are present, they are muddling around somewhere in the background.  The characters in the novel are present to demonstrate ideas.  They are paper puppets that don’t have much depth.  The fast-paced plot is what is drives this story and the characters are clearly artificial – be it human or not – created to demonstrate a fallibility in identity and cognition.  Classic Dick.

The film, however, draws upon – it must draw upon – the characters themselves to demonstrate the deeper philosophical ideas underlining the story.  There is no other way for a film of this nature to be as successful and powerful as this one.  The comical opening and the contrived religious demonstrations had to be cut out.  The story had to be rewritten so as to demonstrate through character the fallibility of sentient existence.  This required a shift from omniscient narrative to powerful monologue – particularly in the philosophical struggle of the replicants themselves, which was only hinted upon in the novel,and it was done masterfully in the film.

In closing this “review” I must say that I did some more research into the theory that Deckard was a replicant in the film version.  What I found was that Harrison Ford stated in an interview that Deckard was in fact a human — otherwise the audience would have no one to connect with in the story.  I think every other theory is bullshit.  I see no evidence that Deckard is a replicant.  I’d also like to note that I’ve always questioned the title of this story.  Shouldn’t it be, “Do Androids Count Electric Sheep?” Because that’s what we are supposed to do, right?  We are supposed to count sheep.

As for the origami unicorn and what it symbolizes?  Another acquaintance of mine pointed out that Ridley Scott was in the process of putting the film “Legend” into production.  It features unicorns.  A coincidence?  Who knows?  There was no origami in the novel.  Then again, we didn’t see an origami Tom Cruz now did we?

–Mr. Mutant

 

 

 

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Retro Review: Mona Lisa Overdrive

The third installment in “The Sprawl,” is a disappointment. With a thing that’s supposed to resemble a plot and some of the characters having spanned across three novels, the book introduces more questions and mysteries than it sets out to answer and still fails to flesh any of the characters out – even the recurring ones. And while the mystery and intrigue of the Sprawl Trilogy is something that kept me reading, as I got closer and closer to the end of this book I kept asking myself, “how on Earth is everything going to resolve itself?” The answer being that it simply doesn’t.

The character Kumiko is central to the narrative – having several chapters devoted to her “journey.” However, she contributes next to nothing to the plot (if there even is one), and her journey just ends up taking us in a circle.

Gentry’s fascination with the matrix is introduced as a major plot device, yet nothing comes of it. What did he find? What did he know previously? What did he discover? We’ll never know.

3Jane is a character that spans the entire series – perhaps you could call her the main character, as each story revolves around her. Yet, in this book she’s depicted only briefly as a jealous and psychotic murderer – which was not her motive in the previous novels.

Angie’s evident influence over the matrix and the world based on the fact that she’s technologically advanced evidently means absolutely nothing…

The list of holes, unfulfilled character realization, and unresolved plots goes on and on. Things get built up and then abruptly dropped into oblivion and forgotten. Characters disappear into obscurity just as quickly as they are brought from it.As the other two books lacked in these areas as well, “Mona Lisa Overdrive” is perhaps the worst of the three.

It is unfortunate because Gibson’s narrative is altogether incredibly intelligent, artful, and imaginative. If he’d combine that with a well plotted story and fleshed out characters that actually mean something to each other, he’d be absolute dynamite. I spent the whole series waiting for that punch, that explosive “Holy Shit!” moment where it all made sense. The Loa, Legba, the shape in the matrix. Who is Kumiko? Will Slick Henry ever play out the trail? Yet there was no climax – only the same brief and cluttered convergence of underdeveloped characters that was experienced in the previous novels. Then, poof! It was all over.

— Mr. Mutant

 

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Retro Review: Count Zero

I was intrigued enough with William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” to continue along with his “Sprawl Trilogy.”  I found the second book, “Count Zero,” to be written with a more refined style.  The plot was far more engaging and aimed at the idea of convergence.  Gibson’s ideas are artful, hip, and well constructed.  It was a fun read with lightning fast narrative that kept me interested.  The only disappointment I have with “Count Zero” is that, much like with “Neuromancer,” when the story is finished I feel nothing for the characters.  Perhaps this is intended – do to the mechanical nature of the themes in these books, or maybe it is (what I see as a shortcoming) in Gibson’s still-developing writing style — the cyberpunk themes allowing for the lack of character development.

I still think “Count Zero” is a great read, and if you’re considering reading this book you should certainly pick up a copy of “Neuromancer” to get you introduced to Gibson’s world. I’m looking forward to the third book in this series: “Mona Lisa Overdrive.”

Count Zero on Goodreads

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Body Snatchers, Replicas, and Consequences

Things have been strange and I’ve lately been feeling very much like a character strait from a Phillip K. Dick novel.  Dick’s themes dealing with the fallibility of  consciousness and identity have been both interesting and frightening to me.

Many of Dick’s characters are not who they think they are.  Many of them are not even WHAT they think they are.  Like the notorious Blade Runner – a replica programed to think he’s a human, or Louis Rosen from “We Can Build You.”  Rosen is one of the most frightening characters I’ve ever encountered.  He appears, by nearly every aspect of narrative, to be real.  And you see the story through his eyes.  So convincing is this character, in fact, that you may not even see for yourself the one confusing flaw that is the axis on which the plot reveals itself as a terrifying ordeal. (Spoiler Alert) Louis Rosen was once a real human being, but has been replaced by a robot who truly thinks he is Louis Rosen.  Where the real Louis went, no one knows – and we only see life through the eyes of his replacement.

I feel as if some time ago, very long ago, there was a person.  That person was taken away – snatched up – to somewhere for some reason and replaced… with me.  I have every look and feel of that person, a few of its memories, and a good imprint of its developmental makeup.  I very much believed that I was in fact that person.  There was something about me, though.  Something not quite believable.  And after years and years of not quite getting the part, not quite making the role, I’ve realized I was never the person I thought I was.

I’ve re-posted the old Consequences from Science Fiction Journal.  I was finally able to figure out how to drag the file name through the transformation process in order to display it as the title at the top of your story.  (I know this is just a bunch of jargon, but it was terribly difficult to figure out and I’m very happy that it works now!)

Replicate, replace, read, repeat with the surrealist game of CONSEQUENCES!

It’s come to the point where serious design modes are being considered.  The design and format of Mutant Creations will become more solid in the next few months.

In the meantime, maybe checkout this awesome novel by Phillip K. Dick.

 

Keep it surreal,
— Mr. Mutant

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Oculus Rift, William Gibson, and a Little Downtime

I just received an email from Oculus stating that their first products will ship Q1 of 2016.  Many of us who gave support on Kickstarter were very disappointed when Oculus founders sold out to facebook for 2 billion dollars.  Many of us had put down our hard earned money to give them the initial “heave-HO,” and there were thousands of developers who were volunteering their time to create working software for the new media platform.  We felt like the people at Oculus took the money and ran.  I’ve actually nearly given up on the company, as the past couple of years have been nothing but media hype and photo-ops with the prototype hardware.

Although they did send me a prototype, and I was certainly impressed with the potential of the hardware, one thing is for certain — I will absolutely not purchase an Oculus Rift if I have to create an account with facebook, or any other site for that matter.  I do look forward to seeing the future development of virtual reality, however, and think that Oculus is a milestone in the future of computational prosthesis.  It will be a number of decades before we begin to see integrated neurocircuitry, but the software being developed today for binocular signal transmission will be key to future implementations.

Alas!  All is in the waiting.  Until then, I’m going to spend a little free time this summer catching up on my cyberpunk with William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.”

 

http://sites.duke.edu/lit80s_02_f2013_augrealities/files/2013/12/neuro.jpg

 

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Turn and Face the Strange

It’s been about five years since I began development for sciencefictionjournal.com (R.I.P.)  As an amateur web coder, I had big plans for the site and most of them came into fruition only after countless hours of obsessive laboring and research.  Even though I had a very limited number of viewers – mostly friends who showed support – I considered the website to be a success overall.  It did, in fact, end up tackling the great problem that it was intended to solve – which was to allow the end user to access formatted content without giving them the ability to download or copy the material.  I owe much thanks to Inventive Labs for creating the Monocle ereader under an open source license.

Well, that was then.  It’s hard to imagine that just five years ago Android had just shown its face to the world and ebook readers were priced upward of $300 or more.  And while I had started to develop Science Fiction Journal with the mobile age in mind, I did not see the tablet trend coming.  The publishing industry suddenly and brilliantly mutated into an app-based market where content could be retrieved from the cloud, and publishers actually began to think of ways to profit from managing content digitally.  Inventive Labs took their wonderful ideas from Monocle and Booki.sh and created a mobile app that allows you to rent and read digital books from libraries.  Their new app is called Overdrive and you can get it for any of your devices at overdive.com.  Hell, even Mad Libs have an app now.

Things have certainly changed.  My ideas have changed also. While I have decided to be more reserved about sharing the notes and characters which are in development for larger pieces, I do still want to expand on different ways to present content and to allow ideas to reach audiences in an open forum.  With these things in mind, Mutant Creations will be built on the foundations of Science Fiction Journal, but will be thematically much more open than the restricted dark sci-fi world I had begun to build for the previous site. (If you’ve just happened to stumble upon me, follow the link if you would like to see the old Science Fiction Journal)

Thanks for reading.  Please stay tuned for more from mutantcreations.com

— Mr. Mutant

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