Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending humankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who could not afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . . They even built humans.
Emigrées to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in.
Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. However, cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.
The novel follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard through one day of his life, as he tracks down renegade androids who have assumed human identities.
The novel begins with Deckard feeling alienated from his wife who, he feels, is misusing her mood organ by choosing inappropriate moods, like depression. Deckard meets Rachael Rosen when traveling to Rosen Industries to test the validity of an empathy test on the new android type: the Nexus 6. Rachael is an attractive female android Deckard initially believes to be human. Rachael believes herself to be human as she has memories implanted from the niece of her manufacturer. She attempts to turn Deckard away from bounty hunting. Deckard becomes confused about humanity, morality and empathy. He is arrested after attempting to retire the second android and taken to what appears to be a fully functional and publicly accessible police station—but it is not a police station Deckard knows about. Deckard escapes with fellow bounty hunter Phil Resch after deducing that the station is staffed by androids. His moral quandary deepens after working briefly with Phil Resch, who Deckard learns is a particularly callous fellow bounty hunter.
Deckard's story is interwoven with that of J.R. Isidore, a driver for an animal repair shop who cannot qualify to leave Earth due to his low IQ. Isidore lives alone in a nearly entirely empty apartment building with little outside contact other than his Empathy Box. Pris Stratton, an android identical in appearance to Rachael, moves into the building and the lonely Isidore attempts to befriend her. Pris and her friends get Isidore to help them trap Deckard as he comes to retire them. Once Deckard realizes the size of the challenge ahead, he enlists Rachael to help him, and they proceed to have sex. By Deckard's having sex with her, Rachael hoped to stop him from bounty hunting, but he will not and drops her off. Deckard nevertheless succeeds in killing the androids, causing Isidore to break down from the loss of his only friends, and earning himself a citation for the record number of kills in one day. He returns home and his wife reports having seen Rachael Rosen kill his real pet goat. He understands that Rachael was taking revenge and is thankful that the loss is only financial; the android could instead have killed his wife.
He travels to an isolated desert to meditate and has an epiphany. He also finds a toad, thought to be extinct and considered to be Mercer's favorite animal. Deckard brings it home, where his wife discovers that the toad is in fact synthetic. Deckard is not glad but "prefers" to know the toad is artificial.