Review: Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

How do our perceptions shape reality? Is there any objective reality external to our individual experiences? Of course, in a Philip K. Dick book, the answer turns out to be, “sort of, maybe.”

A freak accident at a particle accelerator causes a tour group to fall from a walkway into the center of the chamber. When they awaken, they find themselves in an altered world. Scientists have become monks, religious zealotry runs amok, and everyone worships a god called the Second Bab. The members of the tour group soon realize that it is only they who remember things as they should be. And one member of their group, who seems remarkably at home in this new world.

It is then that the members of the tour group realize that are in the world generated from the perceptions of that particular member—the world as he sees and experiences it, a world of Old Testament morality. But escaping that world does not free them from the experience. Instead, they find themselves in a new world, generated from yet another member of their party.

Two years ago, I made the conscious decision that I was going to read through all of Philip K. Dick's novels in order of publication. Eye in the Sky, first published in 1957, is the sixth Dick novel on my list. While his first novel, Vulcan's Hammer, impressed me, I was less enamored with the others, particularly Solar Lottery and Dr. Futurity, which held little substance beyond action spectacle, and The World Jones Made, while a good attempt, was too ramshackle and haphazard in its execution.

Eye in the Sky is the first Philip K. Dick novel I read that demonstrated an awareness of characterization and a coherent (not to mention compelling) theme. There is something both humorous and horrifying about witnessing a world whose props and mores embody the projections of an other's psyche. Dick executes this theme extremely well throughout.

The writing style still grates as much as his first five novels, but the core of a solid literary contribution is here: realized characters and a coherent theme. The characters, admittedly, fall into cliché and even stereotype and racism, but for an early Dick novel, it represents increasing awareness, and it is exceptionally cogent by the standards of American science fiction in the 1950’s.

A low to middling Dick novel, but probably the novel I would recommend most of his 1950’s oeuvre.