|Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human / K.W. Jeter|
|Reviewed by Tal Cohen||Saturday, 28 August 1999|
K.W. Jeter, it is said, was a close friend of the late Philip K. Dick (PKD), and is claimed to be “the acknowledged heir to the spirit of PKD.” I don't think this gives him the right to do so, though.
Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human is a good book, generally. I enjoyed it, which is what really counts. However, it is much more of a sequel to the movie Blade Runner than to PKD's classic, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (upon which the movie is base.) PKD, for one thing, would never have called a book of his The Edge of Human -- because this is really what the book is all about. No, PKD never used names that actually described what the book really is about. PKD chose names like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; “Flow, My Tears,” The Policeman Said; What Does the Color Blue Taste Like?; and We Can Remember It For You, Wholesale. (Can the reader spot the error?)
When it comes to writing style, Jeter is much more fluent and fast-read than PKD. However, PKD's unique style had its benefits. The messages in PKD's book were not nearly as direct, and as obvious, as those in Jeter's sequel. But what I really didn't like about Blade Runner 2 was the fact it was apparently written with a screenplay in mind. This is one book that will be painfully easy to turn into a movie. The scenes are described in a very clear way, visually. But I didn't encounter one description of a smell. Most facts are spoken, not thought. In short, Jeter's work will make the move to the silver screen much more smoothly than Do Androids did.
It is important to note that Jeter takes the first movie as a collection of solid facts, while Do Androids -- which is quite different from the movie -- is used as a source for ideas, no more. In fact, Jeter has turned Blade Runner (the movie) into some sort of a holy reference, giving amazing importance to passing words that the viewer would never have thought twice about otherwise.
Obviously, Jeter did quite a research about the film before writing his book. He interviewed Ridley Scott (the director) several times, and anyone who've read the FAQ file of the alt.fan.blade-runner newsgroup will immediately realize that Jeter has read it, too. Jeter answers almost all of the questions raised in that FAQ: Who was the sixth android Bryant talked about? Why did the Tyrell corporation invest so much effort in making the replicants so human-like? If they had such a short life span, how were the replicants transported to the off-world colonies? -- These, and other questions, are all answered in the present work. If nothing else, Blade Runner 2 gives Blade Runner the integrity it originally lacked.
But at points, Jeter relies on Blade Runner too heavily. For one thing, the number of new characters introduced is extremely small: except for minor characters (like the Tyrell security personnel, of which only Andersson is mentioned by name,) only two new characters are introduced (and Isidore, who wasn't in the movie but was an important character in Do Androids.) And both new characters aren't really new faces, either... In addition to recycling characters, which can generally be accepted, Jeter also recycles scenes -- from view descriptions (the famous L.A. night-view) to complete fist-fight scenes which the reader will find painfully familiar.
Another thing I didn't like in the book is the needless grandioseness. The “red-button” theme in the Tyrell Headquarters was completely needless for the wholeness of the book, but it seriously damaged its reliability, and removed the characters from being the small-people they should have been, as they were in PKD's work.
What I did like about The Edge of Human is the further, and deeper, investigation of the questions Philip K. Dick originally asked: Where does the borderline between man and machine cross? What is human? Do humans have the right to kill machines that are indistinguishable from themselves?
The one question Jeter leaves open is the one Scott likes so much: Is Deckard himself an android? Further arguments pro and con this idea are given (but much more bluntly than in the movie: here, the question is discussed directly.) Remember that in Philip K. Dick's book, the answer appears quite clearly after Deckard uses the V-K machine on himself. But in Blade Runner 2, an answer is never given. After all, there's Blade Runner 3, and I guess that Blade Runner 4 won't be long to follow...
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