A student of mine recently ordered a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for class online, and when it arrived he became suspicious, since the page numbers I was assigning didn't match up with the chapter breaks in the book. Turned out the student had mistakenly ordered a 'Oxford Bookworms' edition of the novel (pictured above). After some additional research, I discovered that the Oxford Bookworms Collection takes novels and abridges them both for length and to fit particular reading levels.
All fine and well, of course, (I guess) but Amazon does not make it clear that this is an abridged version, or that it differs in any way from Dick's novel. Bad enough, but then I started reading the Amazon reviews of this edition. It's almost like they'll let anybody write these reviews. Here's a paragraph that I think indicates serious damage has been done to the reviewer's corpus callosum:
"Unfortunately for Isidore, and Deckard too, it's beyond question that androids are in fact incapable of empathy, of identifying with others and comprehending their lives. They abandon each other in danger, torture animals out of curiosity, and sacrifice humans at the merest hint of trouble. (Of course, there are humans who do that, too, and there's something dangerously innocent about PKD's assumption that empathy is a universal human characteristic, but it's his book.) More to the point, although this lack of empathy makes the androids dangerous, it also makes Deckard's job all the more devastating to his conscience once he discovers that, as a human, he has feelings of empathy for the androids. Can he eliminate the android threat and still retain his own humanity?"
Wow, just wow. Of course the androids in the book repeatedly demonstrate the ability to empathize. Furthermore, Deckard is proof that many humans don't possess any ability to be empathetic, unless they are forced to acquire it, painfully, and with great suffering. 'Can he eliminate the android threat and still retain his own humanity?' Is that serious question? Because the answer is that nothing in his human nature demands that he not kill androids. Deckard's morality doesn't evolve out of necessity, or because it's a latent condition of his being, but out of struggle. Deckard's humanity is equally demonstrated in his desire to kill the andys, complete his assignment, and buy himself a nice animal as it is in his final realization that 'electric things have their lives too, paltry as those lives are.' Not only can't this reviewer affix his review to the proper edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, he also appears unable to process moral ambiguity.
At the end of the Bookworks edition there are some reading questions. Check these out (not liable for the desire to poke yourself in the brain with something sharp that these may elicit from you):
This novel has a mysterious title. What do you think it tells you about the story?
What do you remember most at the end - the fake toad or Iran's changed behavior towards Rick? What does that suggest?
Is there any hope at the end of the novel?
The film Blade Runner ends with Rick (who is divorced) and Rachel Rosen deciding to spend whatever is left of their lives together. Do you prefer that ending, or the one in the book?