I wish I was more like: John R. Isidore
I had better confess as early as I can that I have not seen Bladerunner(1982). I am a bit of a Dick lover (Philip K. Dick that is) and from what I have read, Bladerunner is loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) – the novel in which John R. Isidore comes to life. I thought I would make mention of the film as this may assist in your orientation if you haven’t read the book.
Okay so if you’re still with me let’s proceed (Science Fiction haters with caution)…
John R. Isidore is a ‘chickenhead’, one of the remaining humans on Earth after a world war that drew the majority of the population to Mars. (I told you to proceed with caution.) Isidore is not allowed to emigrate due to his inferior intelligence – a product of radiation exposure during the war. As he is not the main protagonist in the story it is not immediately clear why his point of view is told at all. However, when he plays host to a group of rogue androids that have escaped their lives of servitude on Mars his function is revealed. Isidore is an outcast, and even though he may seem a passive follower given his blind acceptance of his situation you cannot help but feel there is something more to him.
As many of Earth’s animal species were rendered extinct by the war, the possession of an animal is a symbol of status amongst those left on the barren planet. Despite his mental deficiency, Isidore is given a job with a company that produces and maintains mechanical animals for those who cannot afford the real thing. My favourite part of the novel is when Isidore is sent to collect a malfunctioning cat.
Even though I know rationally it’s faked, the sound of a false animal burning out its dive-train and power supply ties my stomach in knots.
Eventually Isidore finds out the cat is real and this devastates him further, but even when he thinks it is fake he cannot stifle his empathy for the dying creature.In comparison to other characters in the novel Isidore Is is truly likeable – even my opinion of the protagonist, Rick Dekard, is ambiguous. Isidore is an outcast in a society of the damned, he is lonely (perhaps his loneliness is what makes him so easy to identify with) and eager to help. He helps the androids who do not attempt to hide their disgust with him, and he even helps Deckard to take his new friends away from him.
To me, J. R. Isidore is a kind of ‘everyman’. I have often thought to myself, whilst reading a doomsday or postapocalyptic novel, who I would be in that context. I wouldn’t be Rick Deckard; I wouldn’t be the hero or the villain, I would be the little person. And I hope I could retain my empathy, and remember to love, like Isidore.
No one today remembered why the war had come about or who, if anyone, had won.
Originally published 20 April, 2012.