I remember the first time I became aware of Philip K. Dick, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Or, more precisely, according to the cover, the book that inspired BLADE RUNNER (in very big letters). I was about ten, and on holiday in a caravan in North Wales. That isn’t as bad as it sounds, I went every year and still go. When the sun shone (and it did, quite often), there was nothing like running around on the beaches and freezing to death in the sea. But when it rained, well, that was tea and biscuits and endless card games and books.
I’d never heard of BLADE RUNNER, of course, being ten and having the kind of parents who thought that a caravan with no TV was a good idea. But I had heard of science fiction, and so when I ran out of things to read, the nice bloke in the caravan two up gave me a copy of Androids. It was an edition that had been given away on the front cover of a magazine that he worked for, I think – he wasn’t that sure what it was, but we both agreed that it looked like my kind of thing. I settled down, and, of course, it blew me away. I know, now, that if I’d watched BLADE RUNNER and then gone back to the book, there might have been some room for disappointment. What was this guy doing blathering about sheep? But at the time, the ideas that Dick presented, the world he built in a few sentences, the melancholy of Deckard and his depressed wife, the wish, the desire, the need to own an animal – perhaps they seem a little obvious now, but at the time they were unlike anything I’d ever read.
My local library, back in London, didn’t have much Philip K. Dick in the SF section. I don’t know why – all stolen? – so it was a few years before I read another. When I found some, I went through a patch of buying up everything I could find in second hand shops, and enjoyed them all – but for me, nothing ever topped the feel of that first chapter of Androids. This is a worthy entrant into the Gollancz 50th anniversary top ten, and I hope in years to come that copies of the book will find themselves in the hands of bored children on holiday.