There are lots of differences between the novel DADoES and the film that was (loosely) based on it. In fact, there are so many differences they are really two different stories.
The book is situated in San Francisco – in the year 1992(!) – while the film takes place in L.A., in the year 2019.
The main character is still called Rick Deckard, but in the book he has a wife named Iran. Deckard is not a “blade runner” (not by that name anyway, as the term is not used anywhere in the book) but a “bounty hunter”. The job is essentially the same as it is in the movie, but in the book the targets are known as androids or “andys” for short.
As you would expect in any movie adaptation of a novel, some events from the book were changed or dropped entirely for the film (just like the movie contained things not in the book). Some characters have different names in the book: Eldon Tyrell is called Eldon Rosen in the book; interestingly, Rachael is called Rachael *Rosen* in the book. There is a character called J.R. Isidore in the book which seems to have inspired the J.F. Sebastian we know from the movie, (although it is quite a leap from a “chickenhead” to an alleged top level genetic engineer).
The novel also seems to have a different focus: it is very concerned with ecological themes, explaining how a nuclear world war ravaged the earth (forcing the majority of humanity to leave the planet) and making most animal life extinct – thereby rendering the surviving species and specimens invaluable.
These things are never explained in the movie; the opening scene does suggest heavy industrial pollution is responsible for the dreary condition the city is in, and the situation with the animals is alluded to in some of the dialogue, but we are never explicitly told.
In the movie, Deckard’s big problem is obviously retiring the replicants without getting himself killed in the process, while in the book, Deckard’s biggest issue was getting himself a real sheep. Having a real animal is kind of a status symbol in the book, because of their value. (Also, getting a real sheep ties in closely to the title of the book…) Hunting the “andys” is merely an opportunity for him to get the money to buy the sheep. Deckard has relatively little trouble dealing with all of them – compared to the movie, it almost seems like an afterthought.
In the movie, focus is much more on the replicants themselves, who are also presented much more like real humans, giving a moral ambiguity to Deckard, his job, and society in general.
Also, the book emphasizes the androids lack of empathy, which is the concept behind the Voight-Kampff test: measuring empathic responses. The concept of Mercerism also ties into this empathy concept, emphasizing people’s need for it and thereby contrasting the androids’ lack of it.
Although there are many differences and even a different vision being presented by Scott to that presented by Dick, there are also many similarities and many of Dick’s fundamental themes are actually represented in the film, such as “What does it mean to be human” and “What is real?”. Despite all the script rewrites, some lines of dialogue make it from book to film surprisingly intact.
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