The latest two books I’ve read are connected in an obtuse manner. The first was sci-fi classic, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Phillip K. Dick, and the second was all-round classic, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. The former questions what it means to be alive; the latter gives answers on how to live.
This was the first Dick book I’ve read. I saw Bladerunner years back when I was too young to appreciate it. However, appreciating the existential nature of the novel is a delight.
Language wise, I loved the abbreviations, the most notable of which is ‘andy’, a nickname that has very human connotations. Dick has a simple style, but paints a dreary picture very effectively. His characters are all a little eccentric, lost in a technologically denigrated world. Sometimes the dialogue was a little brash, a bit out of character, but that happened rarely.
Our protagonist, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter who tracks down and ‘retires’ renegade androids. The difficulty comes in how close androids mimic human behaviour, meaning that an empathy test has to be administered. The fun (but that I mean learning) of the book comes in when Deckard asks androids (and humans) the questions, and how he tricks them into revealing whether or not they are alive. Deckard at one stage ponders his own existence, and the book ends on an ambiguous note. When a book blurs boundaries like this it adds so much joy to the experience, and I found myself stopping many times to try and think through the philosophies. I can’t wait to read more from this clear master of sci-fi.
The Prophet is less plot engaged, and reads more like a self-help book. The Prophet, who is the protagonist, is leaving his town, and is asked by fellow villagers a variety of questions. These include “Tell us of Children” and “Speak to us of Reason and Passion”.
My parents gave this to me when I left home, clearly for good reason. Finally getting around to it has been a blessing (they highlighted the chapter on Children).
I’m not sure how much I can take away from it, but I will certainly use it as a reference book. For example, this quote is from the chapter on Work:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out life’s procession that marches in majesty and proud submissions towards the infinite.
Good to keep in mind when you’re dragging your feet around the office.
These are two books I would highly recommend, and both will give you a slightly better grasp on life – albeit with completely different methods.