In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, civilisation on Earth has been almost completely destroyed by a combination of nuclear war and excessive consumerism. Some people have emigrated to colonise other planets. Among those who are left on Earth is protagonist Rick Deckard, who is given the task of retiring six Nexus-6 androids.
Most anti-consumerist books and movies are set in a dystopian future, rather than a dystopian present. I believe in the message of these books but disagree that setting them in the future is the best way to deliver that message.
“God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” — Fight Club
Depicting a future consumerist hell doesn’t deliver the message hard enough to anybody. Present-day readers will learn that they should change their behaviour for the benefit of future generations. They will also accept the subtly-implied notion that our present-day level of white-collar slavery is somehow acceptable. Yet, future readers will have already witnessed history diverge from the trajectory predicted in the book (particularly in the tiniest, usually technological, details), and they thus see only an irrelevant, hypothetical message, rather than a perfectly apt warning to change their current lives. Futuristic books and movies like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep soften the anti-consumerist blow.
In Fight Club, the protagonist gave up his sedentary, repetitive, alienating and socially-destructive office job to embark on a journey of self-discovery. He believed there was something more important to life than being a “slave with a white collar”. Read my review here. ★★★
- Preview – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 6 (graphicpolicy.com)
- SciFi Books For People Who Hate SciFi – A Holiday Guide (forbes.com)