Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

After putting off reading much of Philip K. Dick’s works due to their price on Amazon, I discovered that my local library has much of them in print. So this past weekend I read the story that Blade Runner was based on. There was a fascinating use of machinery to alter human mood and to stimulate religious-esque experiences. I was caught off guard by these fictional devices and haven’t encountered a similar mechanic in sci-fi writings before, and the closest analogue I can think of is “soma” from Brave New World, or other substances which are abused.

That said, I found myself constantly comparing the text to both Hollywood productions. I believe that each film stands as fine art in their own right, equal to, or even exceeding the written source material. I have to give credit to Dick for creating such an interesting scenario and world to tell his story within. I also have to hand it to the Blade Runner crews for creating such compelling movies that realize his world so well.

To contrast them all, I feel like Do Androids Dream was a bit darker in it’s portrayal of the protagonist and his personal struggles in life and marriage. He felt really human and flawed. The story felt like Dick was trying to give a glimpse into a possible future, and attempting to predict what human engineered beings might be like and how we might interact with them. Both films seemed to take a different approach however.

I feel like the films tackled the philosophical question of “what does it mean to be human?” much more directly and explicitly. I have to say that I enjoyed the mental struggles of the films a bit more, perhaps because of the strong use of visual imagery which I found very compelling. Also, Harrison Ford plays such a strong role that he really carries the films to another level.

I’ll be reading more Philip K. Dick and will offer more thoughts as I complete them. So far I’ve enjoyed the short stories and this novel pretty well, but not as much as I thought I would. The ideas are compelling, just not favorites at this point.

Julius Caesar

The school where I teach requires students to read Romeo & Juliet for freshman year and Julius Caesar for sophomore year. So, after a few conversations around the classroom last month about Julius Caesar I skipped my planned sequence and read this one next. The biggest surprise to me was the collection of suicides at the end. I couldn’t really wrap my brain around why they resorted to taking their own life so quickly. Was it the loss of face and honor? I didn’t have a sense of overwhelming despair, and the whole affair left me in a similar way as the Henry VI plays. So much death with little to justify it.

I was very happy to encounter common English expressions and imagine that this play is where they originated, or at least were popularized. I felt like I was reading history, or language, in the making. This is ultimately what prompted me to start reading Shakespeare’s plays this year in the first place, so it felt like a step in the right direction. That said, I’m really hoping to read some better plots. I’ve got four plays under my belt and I can’t imagine I’ll every read any of them ever again. They just don’t capture my imagination like many other stories have. I believe I shall read Romeo & Juliet next before returning to the historical plays.

Henry VI Part Three

It has taken me a while to recover from reading the three part plays that make up Henry VI. I believe I was caught very off guard by the subject matter. Essentially the plots center around greed and hunger for power. The king is really one of the only redeeming characters and the majority of the nobles are scheming, back-stabbers and generally worthless human beings.

It also looks like the tale continues with Richard III and King John. I plan on reading these next. I also managed to squeeze in Julius Caesar, and it was more of the same, death, death and more death. It has been quite a sobering experience and not an expected one. I’m not really sure what I was expecting though. The quality of the writing is top notch and puts much modern writing to shame, which I suppose is what I was expecting. As for the content matter and plot… I know that some of the upcoming plays will pique my interest a bit more than these.

Henry VI Part Two

I finished this last month but haven’t written for some reason. Anyways, I found this story to be quite depressing. It is full of nobles resorting to violence to take over and it is a kill or be killed story with little to redeem itself. I found my response to be a warm feeling towards pacifism and peaceful thinking.

The majority of the characters are despicable with the main exception of the king; who ironically is widely despised as weak. In a world where the strong survive and the weak suffer, it is interesting to see how this idea is flipped in regards to a king who should be the strongest man in the country. I’m already started on part III and will follow up in March when I finish it.

I did not have a favorite passage like I did in part one. In that one, there was an amazing scene with Talbot and his son John. A similar scene and dialogue were not repeated in quality in part two unfortunately. My favorite scene was when Iden stumbles upon Cade who is trespassing in his garden. They fight, Iden wins, and then when he realizes who it is he is killing he says:

Die, damned wretch, the curse of her that bare thee:
And as I thrust thy body in with my sword,
So wish I I might thrust thy soul to hell.

Good stuff. A nice insult at the death of an adversary. It would be admirable if it weren’t marred by the fact that it is one human slaying another. A true gem covered in blood. The same holds true for all of Henry VI part two.

Henry VI Part One

I quickly finished the first of Shakespeare’s plays and it was very positive. I didn’t do any prep for reading Shakespeare other than to look up a chronology in which they were written. I’m very happy with the approach so far.

Initial impressions were that texts notes to explain archaic idioms and word meanings were helpful. I also found that about half of them were unnecessary for me, which was nice to know about my reading skills with older works. I was also surprised that Joan of Arc was a character in this play. And not just a character but as the story focuses on the English side of war, she was the primary antagonist, even more so than the French nobility.

The story of this play had a climax around a father and son conflict which was one of the only parts with rhyming verse. Essentially the father is a general and about to die because their army is surrounded. He tries to send his son away to escape and live, but basically the son refuses on grounds of the family name. It was really powerful and my favorite part of the play. Also, I initially wondered if Joan of Arc would play a part in the second or third plays, but she ends up being captured and executed in this one.

I’ve started Henry VI Part Two already and it looks like most of these plays will be very quick reads. I also like the division into acts and scenes which helps me pick up and read them as I have short bouts of time to do so. My next two plays after this one will be Richard III, and The Comedy of Errors.