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Androids are back

Androids are back
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First Published: Fri, Dec 10 2010. 10 28 PM IST

Rogue saga: Dick’s book inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Rogue saga: Dick’s book inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Updated: Fri, Dec 10 2010. 10 29 PM IST
Science fiction lends itself to graphic novels. Several popular sci-fi works have been successfully translated into the medium, including stories by Ray Bradbury and Michael Moorcock. The most pop, and also (sometimes) the most abstruse of sci-fi writers is the late Philip K. Dick. Pop, because everyone claims to have read his work. Pop, also because the likes of John Woo (Paycheck) and Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall) have made movies based on adaptations of Dick’s works (because the originals are near-unfilmable and near un-watchable except by diehard Dick fans like this writer as exemplified by A Scanner Darkly).
Rogue saga: Dick’s book inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
Woo and Verhoeven also had to have the source material rewritten and expanded; as pointed out by Wired magazine some years ago, most of Dick’s stories are missing a third (and final) act. If most of Dick’s works are dystopian, many of the titles of his books are almost poetry. Everyone must have heard of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the book that inspired Blade Runner, the Ridley Scott movie starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and some futuristic billboards, but there are also, in no particular order: Flow my Tears the Policeman Said; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch; and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.
Boom! Studios, a comics book publisher of some repute (the editor is the venerable Mark Waid of Kingdom Come fame) has released a comic book version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The story and the text are Dick’s.
Do Androids... isn’t one of Dick’s works from his abstruse phase. It is a straightforward enough (for Dick) story of rogue androids being pursued by investigator Rick Decard. Dick uses the pursuit to explore the concept of humanity (as in, what makes a human?) one reason for the book’s enduring appeal 42 years after it was first published. Illustrated by Tony Parker and coloured by Blond, a man rapidly making a name among comic book fans, the comic is everything the book was, and more—like only a comic can be.
At one level, it made even minor characters stand out. But at another level, it was also lazy reading, bereft of the challenges a book by Dick usually holds for readers. Still, this will likely make the book more accessible to many people put off by Dick’s sparse writing. As for me, I devoured the books (the comic version comes in two nice hard-bound volumes) and, thus revitalized, set down to re-read all the Dicks in my library starting with We Can Build You.
R. Sukumar is Editor, Mint.
Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Dec 10 2010. 10 28 PM IST