Third-person (Limited Omniscient)
Third-person Limited Omniscient sounds like a perspective used to play a video game—like if SimCity combined with Gears of War. Actually, that sounds pretty awesome….
But beyond being a killer new way to play video games, third-person limited omniscient is also a way to describe one of the tried-and-true narrative techniques of storytelling.
Er, speaker. We mean speaker. Just got video games on the brain today. A third-person narrator is simply a way for English majors to say that the narrator isn't a character in the story. The narrator has stepped back, taken himself out of the equation, and is content to tell us the story without getting involved in its happenings.
A tell-tale sign of a narrator being a part of the story is the use of the pronoun "I" to describe himself and his actions (Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby is an excellent example of this). Since our narrator here is using "he" and "she" to describe the actions of all the characters, we can safely label this third-person narration.
What a Know-It-All
The word omniscient comes from the Latin meaning "all-knowledge" (source). So, when we say the novel's narrator is omniscient, we just mean that he is all knowing, that his knowledge of the world and the characters' thoughts extends beyond that of a mere mortals (and by mortals we mean the characters in the novel).
But Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has two focal characters, which is why we say the narrator has limited omniscience. A truly omniscient narrator would be able to zip into any character's head and tell us what they are thinking or feeling. In this novel, the narrator limits himself to just the perspectives of John Isidore and Rick Deckard. We never get to see the personal thoughts of Iran, Rachael, or Pris.
(Hm. Notice anything about those characters? Anything, say, female about them?)
Up a Consciousness without a Paddle
Another aspect of the narrative technique we should mention is that it comes pretty close to stream-of-consciousness, which happens when a writer presents the thoughts of a character as they occur to him or her—that is, the thoughts flow from mind to the page seemingly in real time with no editing.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? doesn't go as far with this technique as, say, William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury or James Joyce's Ulysses. It's more like stream-of-consciousness lite: half the calories but all the flavor.
Consider this example:
"Two parallel police agencies, [Rick] said to himself; ours and this one. But never coming in contact—as far as I know—until now. Or maybe they have, he thought. Maybe this isn't the first time." (10.7)
Notice how the sentence structure almost looks to be coming directing out of Rick's mind as he thinks his thoughts? The second sentence isn't a full sentence because we rarely think in full, grammatically correct sentences. Also, it's broken up by another thought, one that reads like it just came to him on the spot.
Can't get enough? We'll have more on this in our "Writing Style" section.