15 January 2008

Philip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1968

"World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward." Blurb for the 25th Anniversary edition.

Philip K. Dick. DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? Doubleday & Company, Inc, Garden City, New York, 1968.

Current Selling Prices
$5000+ /£2500+

Dick's SF classic - an exploration of what it will mean to be a human being set in the Android future and the book on which the ultimate cult film Blade Runner is based. Being a Doubleday book it must say 'First Edition' on the back of the title page--also as Doubleday books are not made very sturdily (and the d/ws are fragile) bright, sound, clean copies will be prized. Opening line- 'A merry little surge of electricity piped by automatic alarm from the mood organ beside his bed awakened Rick Deckard.' The book makes much of the media character Mercer whose sufferings for the sins of humanity are broadcast several times a day. Prefiguring the religious obsessions of Dick's last novels, the book asks dark questions about identity and altruism -also touching on persecution and ethnic cleansing (Androids in San Francisco in 1992 or 2021 in later versions.)

The character Mercer is echoed in a messianic broadcaster in Ballard's recent 'Kingdom Come.' The meditative aspect of the book is somewhat lost in the thunder of Ridley Scott's movie adaptation 'Blade Runner' (the book has been issued in paperback under this title.) The movie is of couse set in Los Angeles and Deckard is a retired bounty hunter, there is no Mercerism and no one wears cod pieces to prevent infertility from nuclear fallout-- there are many other differences painstakingly listed in an exhaustive article at Wikipedia.

VALUE? The Wiki article shows how much the book has penetrated popular culture - computer and video games, rock music, films and animation, other novels, even poetry. It could be argued that it is the most important SF book of the century, certainly Dick is the Tolstoy of the genre and the book has sold for a greater sum than any other SF book, albeit privately. An article in a recent Vanity Fair about the foolishly rich and modish artist Richard Prince* reveals:-
'...Upstairs, locked behind thick metal doors designed to withstand a 14-hour fire, is the heart of Prince’s collection, ceiling-high shelves filled with ultra-rare inscribed editions of works by 20th-century literary icons such as Dashiell Hammett, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac, among countless others. (Prince has 65 versions of Lolita, including Vladimir Nabokov’s hand-corrected desk copy.)
Prince is quite happy to discuss the prices of his exotic acquisitions, revealing that he recently paid “a little bit over $100 grand” for the only known first edition of Hammett’s The Glass Key in a dust jacket. Then there was the copy of Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, inscribed to Dick’s fellow science-fiction writer Tim Powers. “I paid $150,000 for that,” says Prince. “I was more than happy to pony up—it’s an important book for me.” '
Association items such as this are hard to price but when the book was at ABE at $75000 it seemed a stroppy and somewhat daft price. By comparison the seller who had it wanted (and still wants) $7000 for a signed presentation copy (to the deathless Stephen Spender) of Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider' - surely an 'away with the fairies on Hamsptead Heath' price. If Prince suddenly starts collecting Angry Young Men and 'ponies up', this dealer will be laughing, but only then.

A copy of 'Androids' (in d/j with creasing to spine ends) made $5000 + commission in 2006 and that's about the limit for now. 2 copies at slightly more than this can be found at ABE both decent but not fine. His 1964 work 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch' is priced at $6500 for an excellent condition copy and his rare 1967 Cape (London) book 'Penultimate Truth' also scales $6000 for a sharp copy. One to look out for on this rainswept island. Meanwhile below is a pic of the Japanese edition of 'Androids.'

* See our entry on Prince at Celebrity Book Collectors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An ex-library copy of this rare book has been spotted on eBay. The auction is at $2100.