[Philip K. Dick] Eye in the Sky

  • Title: Eye in the Sky
  • Author: Philip K. Dick
  • Published: 1957
  • Publisher: Arrow Books
  • ISBN: 0-09-920760-5

“People like your wife are dangerous.”
“Why?”
“The lunatic patriots, we can understand. But not your wife. She signs Party peace petitions and she reads the Chicago Tribune. People like her—they’re more of a menace to Party discipline than any other bunch. The cult of individualism. The idealist with his own law, his own ethics. Refusing to accept authority. It undermines society. It topples the whole structure. Nothing lasting can be built on it. People like your wife just won’t take orders.”

from the book

The merit of reading good science fiction novels is you can be in a totally different world without losing the sense of reality.

Philip K. Dick’s “Eye in the Sky” is based on the fears and paranoia of McCarthy-era authoritarianism and psychological evasion from them. After an accident – malfunction of the particle accelerator – at the lab tour, eight people of a tour group are forcefully moved into different alternative universes, constructed by each member’s consciousness. One man’s heaven can be another’s hell scenario.

The first universe is of Arthur Sylvester, an elderly conservative Christian, who believes in Geocentrism. It is the world of miracles, prayers, and punishment. The second world is of Edith Pritchet, an elderly lady with a skewed Victorian morality. She eliminates anything that she thinks is unpleasant. The third universe reveals the paranoid delusions of Joan Reiss. And finally, they arrive at a Marxist model society, which is the mind of an unexpected member of a group.

Each universe is the manifestation of typical prejudices, fears, and superstitions of common people. In each universe, everyone is under the will of one person. People prefer one over another. The protagonist, Jack Hamilton, insisted that they need to be back to the original world, which is the only real world. But Bill Laws, an African-American Ph-D tour guide, challenged Jack. Jack only wants to go back not because it is real but because it is the best for him. The author reopens the question of solipsistic existence by asking us to think about what is real and what it means to be free.

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