Starting around 1955 Philip K. Dick largely abandoned science fiction and concentrated on more literary, “mainstream” novels. He did write at least three in the genre from 1955 to 1960, however, one of which is set in contemporary California. I knew nothing about Eye in the Sky and was surprised to discover that the book would fit into my reading project. I am, of course, late to the party. Thousands of science fiction fans have already posted comments, so I probably have nothing new to say. I do have a question for anyone who owns a copy of the original edition: How many pages does it have?
Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick. Ace Books (1957), approx. 160 pp.?
Electrical engineer Jack Hamilton and seven other visitors fall from their perch above the new proton beam deflector in Belmont. All are injured, some more seriously than others. For Hamilton bad things started happening a few hours earlier when his employer, a defense contractor, suspended him from his job until he could prove that his wife, Marsha, was not a communist. Worse still, a friend, Charlie McFeyffe, gathered the purported evidence against Marsha. When Hamilton gets home, he senses that something is not quite right. And when he interviews for another job, he discovers that prayer and magic have replaced scientific laws. More surprises follow.
Dick’s critique of American society in this book differs from the one in his mainstream novels. Instead of a showing a fatuous place that offers no hope of personal fulfillment, he creates several different Americas, each representing what one of his characters imagines the country to be. In one scenario the country is religious to the point of superstition. In others it’s paranoid, or perfectible, or riven by class conflict. The story is likely to keep readers guessing. Dick’s reliance on plot, however, gives him little time for character development. Of course, he may believe that his intended audience hasn’t much interest in subtlety anyway. This description of Marsha, for example, “the sweet-smelling and very expensive little creature,” is nothing like anything in one of his mainstream novels.