Sunday, March 1, 2009

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human – K. W. Jeter (1995)

The first thing that I need to note about this book is that “Blade Runner 2” is a sequel based both on the movie “Blade Runner” (if it weren’t obvious from the title) and Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (the novel which the movie “Blade Runner” was based upon). It requires the reader to have fairly good knowledge both of Blade Runner and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, because the plot constantly references both – characters and entities are straight from the movie, while the ideas and philosophy are straight from the novel. You aren't really going to really understand the novel, or this review, for that matter, without some knowledge of at least the movie, but you expect that when it is a tie-in. Now, onto the novel “Blade Runner 2".

Having only had poor experiences with tie-in novels prior to this, (thank you, Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert) I wasn’t expecting much from this book. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this was actually quite a good novel. Deckard, fled Los Angeles a year ago with Rachael, a replicant - or a robots that look human. Deckard has been brought back forcefully for a new job. Apparently, there’s a replicant to retire, and he is the man for the job, but there is one difference – Deckard is working on behalf of the Tyrell Corporation this time instead of the police. Although the “Deckard working for Tyrell” plotline sounds like it would never have occurred in the original movie, the explanation underpinning it is convincing enough that I can’t criticise the book for this aspect. Apparently, the novel ties into the movie based upon an inconsistency – there is a sixth replicant to retire, not the five as the original movie stated. I am not familiar enough with “Blade Runner” to say whether this factoid used to insinuate the novel into the movie’s mythology occurs or not, so I’ll put this issue to the side and defer to someone else’s judgement here.

What I liked most about “Blade Runner 2” is that Jeter, for the most part, manages do what I would expect that a movie tie-in would be able to do, and then exceeds my expectations. As expected, the movie’s characters and setting are shoe-horned into a new plot that continues on with the original story. Less expected is that the novel also includes the same theme of philosophical questions about reality and what is real and what is fake, which comes across as quite Dickian, but Jeter is giving us new variations on the questions, continuing on from where the book and movie finished off.

I also enjoyed Jeter’s additions to the world of “Blade Runner”, which I felt fit in quite well with the movie’s mythology. One example is that Replicants can be stored cryogenically which delays their expiry date. The explanation behind this is quite convincing, and uses information from the movie to provide reasoning behind this idea. Or the comparisons between Nazi Germany and the Blade Runners, as one example, and coming up with a convincing explanation for the origin of Blade Runners, and what their name is derived from. There are quite a few other additions in the book, but these are all important plot aspects, and I don’t want to spoil the book for those whom have not yet read it.

All is not well in the world of the Blade Runner, though. The first is that the feel of the story doesn’t play out the same as the movie. It changes from an intelligent noir detective story to an intelligent action story – Jeter didn’t slavishly uphold the story-telling style of the film, and whether that works for you or not is a matter of personal preference. The second problem is that “Blade Runner 2” is quite an open-ended story. It ends extremely well, but the story ending is left wide open as a blatant attempt to entice the reader to get the next book.

So, although the story might not feel quite like the Blade Runner movie, or like Dick’s novel, it’s intelligent in the same vein as the original novel, and “Blade Runner 2” manages to do all that a fan of the movie or the book would expect of a tie-in, while also being a worthwhile read in it’s own right. I’ll definitely be reading the next entry in this series. 4.5/5.

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