A Review of Eye in the Sky

Eye in the SkyEye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eye in the Sky was great fun to read! I think it’s Dick’s funniest book ever. He had so much humor in his earlier books. The novel centers around Jack Hamilton, a scientist who’s fired from his defense contractor job because his wife is a suspected Communist. The book was published in 1957, but the plot takes place in 1959, which is odd because Dick usually places his plots much further out than that. Anyway, Hamilton and his wife go on a tour of a scientific facility that has something called a Bevotron, a proton slicer or something. There are eight people in the tour group, including the guide. Something goes wrong with the device, and it slices through the group and the area they’re standing on, leading them to fall a great distance and get knocked unconscious. For some reason, no one was killed. Hamilton wakes up in the hospital, is released, and goes home with his wife. Something is said, and locusts appear out of thin air and attack Jack. Odd. The next day, he travels to San Francisco to apply for a job. However, the place he goes to makes things for a bizarre, twisted, Old Testament-like religion with a god who’s spiteful and petty. Hamilton leaves and everything he encounters points to this god, and everyone he meets plays a role in this religion. At some point, Jack and another character end up being taken up to Heaven via umbrella, where a great “eye in the sky” looks at them before hurling them Earthward. Hamilton gradually comes to the realization that this bizarre world is the internal construct of an old war vet who was in the tour group, as he was the only one who remained conscious. Everyone in the group is still at the Bevotron. How do they escape this messed up world? Well, they visit the old man in the hospital and knock him unconscious. Poof! New world. Turns out they’re in someone else’s world now, a prim and proper Victorian-type world where things disapproved of are wiped out of existence. This makes for a hilarious scene where Jack and the others in the group suggest things to obliterate and things just randomly disappear. Including air. There are several such worlds in this book and each is worse than the last. I think the book fails a little though in assuming that only half of the group is maladjusted enough to have a warped inner world. I think the book would have been better if everyone in the group got to have an alternate world with everyone trying to escape. But that might have made the book too long. The book ends on an up note with Jack and Bill Laws, the “Negro” tour guide, developing a recording company that’s going to change the industry. I do want to point out one thing, in fairness to Dick. In past reviews, I’ve been critical of how black characters are treated, often wondering is the author was racist. In this book, however, the black character is a grad student in physics and is portrayed in a very good light, with criticism leveled at a racist character who shuns him. So that’s good. That said, the female characters in this book don’t come off very well — Dick’s not always been kind to his female characters. Still, this book was like a hilarious Twilight Zone and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s not necessarily his best work, but it’s heartily recommended.

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