I want to love Philip K Dick’s books but it’s difficult.
I do appreciate that this was pioneering work at the time it was written and has inspired a generation of science fiction storytellers. For example, Ex Machina (2015) seems in retrospect to be one long Voight-Kampff test. That’s just one movie, there are myriad others where robots begin to think and feel like humans, blurring the lines between man and machine, forcing us to ask ourselves what really makes us human.
My criticisms of this book are similar to the ones I made of The Man in the High Castle - the story starts with an excellent premise, helped along by realistic characters that are easy to empathise with, but is sidetracked by bullshit. In this book it’s the weird and wacky Mercerism, which still makes no sense to me. None of the scenes where Mercer or Mercerism is mentioned make the remotest sense to me. I feel like the story would have been better if he had found a simpler way to contrast the ability to empathise between humans and androids, one that didn’t involve throwing rocks in Virtual Reality. It’s frustrating to pan this book because it has so much potential that’s been squandered.