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It may have taken Ridley Scott 20 years to finish editing Blade Runner, but it took 35 years before we got a proper sci-fi movie sequel. At least it was worth the wait for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, a gorgeous blockbuster starring Ryan Gosling that recaptures the neon dystopia in all its dusty glory.

Overshadowed by its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 has Gosling as the Nexus 9 Replicant detective who gets sucked into the mystery behind Deckard and Rachael’s disappearance in 2019. His investigation uncovers what became of their doomed romance and some secrets that Tyrrell’s successors want the Wallace Corporation to keep to themselves.

This wasn’t the only planned cinematic sequel. In the 1990s, a more direct sequel to Deckard’s story based on KM Jeter’s novel Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human entered early stages of development. It didn’t materialize, of course, but if Jeter’s book had been adapted, the cyberpunk franchise would have looked very different than it does today.

Released in 1995, The Edge of Human is a sequel to Blade Runner and an amalgamation with Philip K. Dick’s book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which the original film was based. Characters and plot elements from the film are mixed with those from Dick’s book, creating a unified timeline.

In the months following their escape from Los Angeles, Rachael and Deckard live in a small cabin on the outskirts of town. To slow Rachael’s advanced aging, she was cryogenically frozen in a Tyrell transport container. Deckard is planning his next move alone when someone shows up at his door who looks remarkably like Rachael: Sarah Tyrell, Eldon’s niece and now owner of the Tyrell Corporation.

She’s the template Rachel was based on – remember, Rachel has her memories – and she has a suggestion for Deckard. Find a sixth rogue replicant and she will help him and Rachel disappear. With some reluctance, he agrees. Meanwhile, the template for Roy Batty kidnaps Dave Holden, the detective who is attacked by Leon at the beginning of Blade Runner, and forces him to find the truly last missing replicant – Deckard.

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner

A classic game of cat and mouse fueled by suspicion and despair. Old locations from Blade Runner are revisited, and a few from Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?, mixing both lyrics. World-building isn’t seamless, but its ambitions outweigh the slight incongruities.

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For example, it doesn’t include replicants that are mass-produced by pre-existing humans, a sticking point in The Edge of Human. A black market for replicant repair and modification is introduced, a natural progression of the overarching transhumanist themes. Anyone who retires or dies can be replaced with a “persynth,” a virtual simulacrum based on their archived personality. Roy tells Dave that those involved in keeping artificial beings in check are artificial themselves, meaning Blade Runners are all replicants.

The middle ground between Scott and Dick’s perspectives in expanding the universe, Jeter manages to largely reconcile with both, contrasting corporate terror with deeply human desires for physical autonomy and personal approval. The advent of replicants inspires much paranoia and fear about what it means to be human, which offers little consolation.

Sean Young in Blade Runner.

In that sense, Sarah resents Rachael for being her uncle’s right-hand man before the Android version took her place. The Edge of Human doesn’t have the scope and scope of Blade Runner 2049, but offers more of the philosophical milieu. It deals with the undertones of evolution and replacement and late-late-late capitalism eventually folding under the weight of globalist bureaucracy.

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Sarah explains that the UN does not want to take responsibility for the Nexus 6 models she commissions and blames the Tyrell Corporation. In order to do so, Blade Runners are being retired, stoking fears that the Replicants will run amok unless Tyrell is fully disbanded. While all of this may not be true, it’s totally believable and enough to make Deckard feel like he’s in an impossible situation.

He’s dead no matter what, so he fulfills Sarah’s demands. The Body Politics of The Edge of Human is just that, dealing with the political environment as it continues to burn itself down. It’s harder on the palate than the romance of 2049 and less pathological. But the unscrupulous corporate lore, allusions to the philosophical works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche, and sheer despondency make it an odd, alluring work.

Bladerunner

Curiously, both Blade Runner sequels end in a similar position, with Deckard free. It’s symbolic in Blade Runner 2049 as he walks in to finally meet his daughter after being forced to abandon her. For The Edge of Human, he escapes to an off-world colony with Sarah, who has secretly taken the place of Rachael. This was all a ploy to do company tricks and there was no other replicant.

We don’t know if Deckard knows it’s Sarah. He might choose not to ask and instead choose to enjoy the moment of quiet while it lasts. Two books follow this one, and if Blade Runner had gone there, we’d all do the same.

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