I Read the Blade Runner Sequel Novel, So You Don’t Have To

Share this post

In anticipation of the long-awaited follow-up to the genesis of the cyberpunk genre that nobody is watching for whatever reason, I learned of K.W. Jeter’s three novelized sequels to one of the most un-sequel-able movies ever made and set upon a mission to snag myself a copy of each, which proved to be much more difficult than anticipated. Not only are they fairly rare outside of Amazon.com, but Blade Runner 4: Eye and Talon goes for a price comparable to everyone’s favorite smart house AI. So, after scouring local book stores, I opted instead for the cheapest, most expedient method possible: the library.

And let me tell you: Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human was not worth the effort.

Background

There isn’t much material out there regarding Kevin Wayne Jeter’s friendship with Philip K. Dick, the author of Blade Runner’s source material, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, or how Jeter ended up writing its sequel. Jeter is often described as a substantial contributor to science fiction, having penned other cyberpunk works, such as Dr. Adder and NoirHowever, the only lasting impact he might have made is in coining the term “steampunk”. While Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was considered a flop by most standards upon theatrical release, it quickly gained cult status and remains one of the most influential science fiction films to date.

Prior to the film’s release, Dick was offered a sum of $400,000 to write, essentially, a dumbed-down novelized adaptation of the film for children, but turned the offer down. By 1995, Blade Runner’s popularity had grown to the point of demanding for a continuation of Rick Deckard’s saga and created a vacuum for Jeter’s manuscript to fill. However, 22 years after its release, the lack of continuity between Blade Runner 2049 and Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human seems to suggest Warner Bros. pulled a maneuver similar to Disney’s decanonization of the Star Wars expanded universe–a maneuver which, in this case, seems to have been for the best.

 

Summary

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human opens a year after the events of the first movie with the murder of Deckard’s former (and apparently belligerently drunken and nihilistic) police captain, Bryant, by an unknown assailant. Shortly after we are reintroduced to Deckard, who is now hiding away in a cabin in Oregon and has devolved into a suicidal mess after sealing Rachael in a special replicant transportation vessel that bears a striking resemblance to Ubik‘s cold-pac chambers, in order to extend her remaining life. He is discovered by Sarah Tyrell, Rachael’s templant (I’ll give you two guesses as to what that might be) and sole heir to the Tyrell Corporation’s assets.

She blackmails Deckard into doing yet another “last job”, to find yet another unidentified replicant that was a part of the group led by Roy Batty in the Blade Runner, in order to prevent the Tyrell Corporation from a complete shutdown. This “sixth replicant” was allegedly known by and subsequently covered up by Bryant prior Deckard’s investigation. The book references Bryant’s dialogue in the original film, which leaves one replicant unaccounted for. After being briefed and brought back to Los Angeles, Deckard is brought to a veterinary clinic to speak with J.R. Isidore (the character from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? whom J.F. Sebastian is based upon) for a reason that never seems to be made entirely clear and engages in a directionless exposition dump masquerading as a conversation that spans several chapters.

Meanwhile, Dave Holden, a character who is, in effect, killed off in the first few minutes of Blade Runner, is kidnapped from the hospital he resides in and has his heart and lungs replaced with artificial organs by none other than Roy Batty himself–or rather, the “original” Roy Batty–for the express purpose of hunting down Deckard, who Batty believes to be the sixth replicant. This book’s Batty also believes all blade runners are replicants, and that there is a conspiracy against them. Of course, this exposition is also laid out in a very lengthy conversation that covers a significant portion of the book.

Three revived characters aren’t enough, you say? It turns out that Jeter has also resurrected J.F. Sebastian and Pris, who reunite with Deckard after he pulls shenanigans in the LA police station and attempts to find refuge in an old safe house. They don’t really seem to serve the story in a particularly meaningful way other than to be murdered by the book’s Resident Ice Queen, Sarah Tyrell. Ultimately, the book leads up to a showdown between Holden, Deckard, and Batty, wherein Holden decides that Batty is the sixth replicant, not Deckard, and shoots him.

After finding Rachael unsealed from her glass casket in the Tyrell Corporation ziggurat, Deckard then confronts Sarah Tyrell via remote communication, accusing her of creating the rumor of the sixth replicant running free on Earth in order to prompt the UN to shut down the Tyrell Corporation and destroy her uncle’s legacy. Then, as if perfectly on cue, the building begins to collapse, as explosive charges planted on its main supports by the UN have begun to detonate. Deckard escapes with Rachael, and they then emigrate to Mars, during which we discover, surprise surprise, that Rachael was actually just Sarah pretending to be Rachael all along because all she wanted was love this entire time! Never mind that she’s had Rachael killed, which we discover in the epilogue.

 

Analysis

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human is everything a sequel should not be. I can’t claim to understand the reasons behind its publication, but the very manner in which it exists undermines the integrity of its predecessor. It absolutely fails to reconcile the differences between Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, despite being advertised otherwise; instead, it warps established pieces of the Blade Runner universe so much that it doesn’t feel quite right to be described as a sequel to the 1982 classic, but also retreads so much ground from the original that it fails to establish its own identity as a science fiction tale.

For instance, Jeter puts painstaking effort into bringing back almost every memorable character from Blade Runner,  in name only, whether or not their deaths were clearly established. Each character undergoes a transformation that robs them of the reasons we empathized with and related to them in the first place. Deckard is reintroduced as a depressed, inept investigator; Rachael’s templant, Sarah, who is the only representation of Rachael we actually witness in the book, is cold and murderous. The Roy Batty templant’s singular character trait seems to be his smile, so constantly described as simply being on Batty’s face that it beats a dead horse ten times over. Dave Holden, who is the closest thing the book has to an original character, feels the need to constantly remind us of his poor opinion of Deckard, with a pettiness akin to an office drone who can’t stand his cubicle mate. And J.R. Isidore, the book’s transplant from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is transformed from a compassionate simpleton to an unsympathetic creep, his stutter being the only vestigial characteristic that has survived.

In an attempt to lazily fill a plot hole that has since been filled by the makers of Blade Runner themselves, Jeter simply manages to create more. The entire basis for the conflict hinges on a scriptwriting error, which left one replicant unaccounted for during Bryant’s briefing with Deckard. By resurrecting characters in hackneyed ways, Jeter manages to display a certain lack of understanding of the film; for instance, the Roy Batty templant describes how his clones are all programmed with his skills and experiences. In other words, Roy Batty of the film was programmed with memories, an innovation that was prototypical in the original film. The reasoning behind this seems to be to show this book’s one-dimensional rendition of Roy Batty as the real deal, more hardcore than the hardcore Batty of the film, thus distinguishing a difference between humans and replicants and dismantling the themes of both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner. Of course, none of this actually matters, as it turns out there was never a sixth replicant in the first place, turning the whole book into a wild goose chase.

Conceptually, Blade Runner 2 is barren. It only introduces two ideas, neither of which could be characterized as particularly imaginative: the first is a sort of proxy which displays a computer-generated simulation of a person, living or dead, both times used to successfully deceive Deckard; the other is the concept of the Curve, a phenomenon experienced by blade runners that is also known as–I kid you not–the index of self-loathing. The only times it manages to provide fully-formed descriptions of the world it takes place in are during Deckard’s flashbacks to the original film; otherwise, we are provided with little information on the nature of the setting other than obligatory clues like “hospital” or “cabin”.  And the flashbacks are many, constantly mining Blade Runner for its more memorable moments, re-enacting them in precise detail but adding nothing to the story at hand. Perhaps this is meant to mask the characters’ weak motivations, as the characters seem to constantly be questioning their own actions, mirroring the audience’s (and perhaps, by extension, the author’s) frustration at their dull, aimless natures as opposed to any real inner life among the characters. In fact, as Bryant lays dying in the book’s first scene, he feels gratitude, which I now believe is less out of the intended sense of suicidal nihilism, but more out of happiness that he won’t be heavily featured in this poorly constructed novel.

The only thing that seems to show any faith in either Blade Runner or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the writing itself, and that is likely unintentional, as the dialogue’s attempt at edginess consists of adding curse words whenever possible. Despite the depth of Philip K. Dick’s concepts and premises and his invaluable impact on science fiction as a whole, his voice as a writer rarely struck me as particularly developed. Jeter’s writing style strikes me in a similar fashion, using long conversations between characters that quickly shake the reader’s attention to establish its themes, although the themes of Blade Runner 2 do not have the same amount of depth or ingenuity as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’s, instead relying on Dick’s previously established material and cycling the same information throughout conversations (and the whole book, while we’re at it), culminating in a thoroughly uninspired story.

 

Conclusion

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh. Frankly, by the time I was halfway through Blade Runner 2, my attention was more motivated by frustration with its persistent contrivances more than genuine interest. But my point stands–there were few, if any, redeeming qualities contained within the book’s pages. Almost the exact opposite in quality of its modern counterpartBlade Runner 2 doesn’t feel like a book that K.W. Jeter actually wanted to make. Perhaps he was just too far along “the Curve” at the point of writing it to produce something worth his readers’ time.

Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human- 2/10


If you’d like to experience Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human for yourself and make up your own mind about it, you can get a copy here.

Some of the links included in this article are Amazon affiliate links. If you would like to purchase these items, consider using the links provided and help support Neon Dystopia.

2 Responses to “I Read the Blade Runner Sequel Novel, So You Don’t Have To”

  1. Vickingtor

    I gave up on the credibility of this book when the necromancing reahed absurd proportions. Jus the fact the author comlpetely ignores the death of Holden is grounds to dump the book altogether. The save with Roy Batty is flimsy, but J.F. AND Pris? Give me a break.

Leave a Reply