Study Guide

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Genre

By Philip K. Dick

Genre

Science Fiction; Dystopian Literature; Psychological Thriller

Like its title androids, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? seems to evolve every time we read it, making it really hard to pin down into a particular genre box.

Of course, that doesn't mean we won't try because labels is what we do.

First, this novel is science fiction. Surprise! We know you never saw that one coming, what with the word android featured so prominently in the title. And if that didn't clinch it for you, then the hovercars, space colonies, and laser guns might make you a believer.

But the novel is science fiction for more than just these futuristic tech trappings. It belongs to this genre because it openly questions how technology will change what it means to be human.

Will technology end our isolation, bringing us closer together through such feats of ingenuity as the empathy box (cough, Internet, cough)? Or will technology continue to push us further apart, such as the nuclear bombs that led to a sparsely populated Earth?

More than lasers or space travel or flying hovercars, these questions are what make this novel science fiction.

All that Radiation and No Super Powers

The novel also plays with the dystopian—or perhaps we should say apocalyptic—genre. In this genre, society has degraded into a horrible state, and it likely won't get any better. In fact, chances are it'll continue to slide deeper and deeper into oblivion until the civilization as we know it is but a memory.

Consider this passage: "This legacy of World War Terminus had diminished in potency; those who could not survive the dust had passed into oblivion years ago, and the dust, weaker now and confronting the strong survivors, only deranged minds and genetic properties" (1.31).

The radioactive remnants of a world war has infected the globe with irradiated dust that is slowly killing or deranging the minds of Earth's survivors. It doesn't get much more dystopian than that, Shmoopers.

Insane Adventure in the Membrane

Finally, the novel is also a psychological thriller. Sure, there are shoot outs, attempted assassinations, and arguably murder mostly foul, but the story really derives its thrills from the mental conflicts the characters find themselves in.

For example, Rick is often tricked into believing a human to be an android and androids to be human. His search for the truth also entails his self-conflict surrounding his beliefs on the morality of "retiring" androids.

Like most great stories, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? can't really be contained by a single genre. It branches out of a single framework, drawing inspiration in bits and pieces of any genre it can find useful. We've provided you with three examples here, but there are arguably more. Philosophical literature? Sci-Fi Noir? Comedy?

Okay, maybe not comedy. Although that bit with the spider was hilarious. (Not. Please don't shoot us.)