This is the story of a futuristic bounty-hunter, who has the busiest day of his career, he is out to find and “retire” six of the fancy new androids they have these days. The androids are made for use in the colonies on Mars, but sometimes they escape and come back to the ravaged and almost-empty planet Earth. I am not sure why they want to come to Earth, but they do. Our hero, Rick, can spot the androids because there is one major difference between them and humans: they lack empathy.
Rick lives in a depopulated San Francisco. When they book was originally written, in 1968, it was set in 1992, I think, but since it has been updated my copy was set in 2021. Earth has had a terrible war and all the sensible people have left for colonies on other planets. So, it might be time for another update because I do not think we are capable of colonising other planets any time soon.
If humans stay behind on planet Earth the men have to wear lead codpieces to stop themselves from becoming sterile (apparently the women do not have to protect their lady bits with anything at all, which is odd, because there was me thinking it was the lady bits that did most of the life-giving stuff), and there is a danger of the pollution turning you in to a “chickenhead” – someone who is of very low intelligence. Neither “chickenheads” nor sterile people can go to the colonies. There is also some odd philosophical stuff about keeping animals, even electric ones, and a new religion based on empathy.
I quite like the idea of getting my own android: a super-intelligent humanoid that lasts around four years who will do all my jobs for me. They are a bit stiff and uncommunicative and feel no empathy. Judging from Dick’s writing style, perhaps he was an early prototype because this book is rather dull. The dialogue is dull, there is no action (despite it being made into sexy 80s space thriller, Blade Runner) and I had to make myself plod through it’s 210 pages.