Eye in the Sky (novel)
Cover of first edition (paperback)
|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
Eye in the Sky is a science fiction novel written by Philip K. Dick and originally published in 1957.
The title refers to the gigantic, all-seeing eye of God; at least, that is, as a manifestation of one Arthur Silvester's personal worldview. He is an elderly schismatic Bábí World War II army veteran whose inner life is initially forcibly imposed on several other characters as the result of the involuntary formation of a gestalt consciousness after a nuclear accident.
While on a visit to the (fictional) Belmont Bevatron in the 1957 novel's near-future year of 1959, eight people become stuck in a series of subtly and not-so-subtly unreal worlds. The instigating incident is a malfunction of the particle accelerator which places all of the injured parties in states of total or partial unconsciousness. These ersatz universes are later revealed to be solipsistic manifestations of each individual's innermost fears and prejudices, bringing the story in line with Dick's penchant for subjective realities. As well as his future discussions of theology and fears about McCarthy-era authoritarianism, the novel skewers several human foibles.
Jack Hamilton, the central protagonist, is dismissed from his job at the California Maintenance Labs due to McCarthy-era paranoia about his wife Marsha's left-wing political sympathies. Other affected members of the injured touring party include Bill Laws, a Negro possessing a PhD Degree in Physics who is nonetheless employed as a lowly tour guide within the plant. The above-mentioned Arthur Silvester is an elderly political conservative and believer in an obsolete geocentric cosmology, derived from a schismatic Bábí offshoot. Joan Reiss is a pathologically paranoid woman. Edith Pritchet is a maternal but censorious elderly woman. In succession, the group moves through solipsistic personalized alternate realities related to the beliefs and opinions of Arthur Silvester, Pritchet, Reiss and a hard line Marxist caricature of contemporary US society. Marsha Hamilton's subconscious perceptions, however, did not create this alternate reality, as most of their companions and even her own husband, originally thought. It originates instead from an unexpected source, revealed as Charles McFeyffe, a revealed hard-line Communist who has craftily and diabolically insinuated himself into an overtly wholesome and patriotic American lifestyle that includes, unbelievably, a position as chief security officer in the California Maintenance Labs plant. So much for the good old infallible vetting process we were led to believe was in place for Government-level positions of trust and responsibility.
At story's end Jack Hamilton and Bill Laws form a small business that seeks advances in stereophonic technology. The disclosure of McFeyffe's Marxist allegiances is dismissed as completely unprovable. There is just a playful hint of a suggestion that the world they finally end up in may or just may not be their original base reality.
Anthony Boucher lauded the novel as "nicely calculated and adroitly revealed," saying that he had "never seen [its] theme handled with greater technical dexterity or given more psychological meaning."
In popular culture
Episode 20 of the science fiction anime Ergo Proxy, titled "Sacred Eye in the Void", is based on Eye in the Sky. In this episode the protagonist awakens to find himself stuck inside someone's subconscious, presumably one of the main characters, and he must wade through realities within realities while figuring out how to escape—and alongside confirm that he is more than just an imaginative figment of the brain he is trapped in.
- "Recommended Reading," F&SF, July 1957, p.93.
- Nati, Maurizio. “Paura del diverso: Fobie d'oltreoceano in Occhio nel cielo”, in De Angelis & Rossi (eds.), Trasmigrazioni: I mondi di Philip K. Dick, Firenze, Le Monnier, 2006, pp. 131–41.