To be human do you need a scape goat? It could be one in the same questions when it comes to the story, Do androids dream of electric sheep? By Philip K. Dick.
In this story, that went on to inspire the movie Bladerunner, Dick explores human empathy. Those without empathy, regardless of other considerations like genetics and appearances, are non-human as much as a robot sheep is not the same as a live sheep. Deckard, our protagonist finds it harder and harder to do his job (retiring runaway androids or Andys) as his empathy is tested by the latest version of androids, the Nexus 6.
At the beginning of the book I wondered if Deckard would have past his own empathy test as he went through his life with little thought for thing outside of owning a live animal. By the end, after getting to know a number of the Nexus 6 androids and a reality altering experience Deckard can only make sense of his world by sinking all the bounty money he made by purchasing a live goat.
Deckard’s journey is inevitably unfulfilling because he finds himself loving something that can not reciprocate. He’s the hero of the hour and desperate to find some sort of meaning.
This book is a study in character, the character of a human in the face of inhumanity. As a science fiction setting is important for the telling of the story, but the core message could have been set in any time. I’d give this to anyone who loves books that deal with human nature and would be a perfect title for book groups to discuss.