Wednesday, January 18, 2012

With opened mind

Eye in the Sky, by Philip K. Dick. Ace Books, 1957.
The provisional tile of this novel was "With Opened Mind." I have read the book many times and confess to preferring the published title. The subject is the varieties of paranoia 1950s-style; there are no opened minds here really, just subsets of a bastardized collective reality that the characters inhabit--that we all inhabited back then, if we were around in 1957.
The plot concerns a group of people who together are acting out a kind of waking dream while lying unconscious following an accident. This image of the eye, as so memorably shown here, might represent an individual ego run amok. But it's actually more like an id, a destructive force that dominates others just because it can.
What intrigued me about the book when I first read it at age 12 is the scene where two men clutching an umbrella are pulled up into the heavens. There they behold a giant, disembodied, cyclopean spying eye, which at that point in the story represents the lord of the universe of a fanatical war veteran. His petty god is one of wrath, and downright dangerous.
Control of the group consciousness passes from person to person, each displaying a different form of insanity, until finally normalcy is restored...or is it? For the world into which the characters finally awake, familiar as it is, looks like just another version of the craziness. Which of course it is.
Despite appearances, this novel is not a fantasy; it is pure science fiction. It takes place in the "real" world (I use the term advisedly) and the fantastic events are generated from explicable circumstances, not magic. It requires a bit of understanding of the mechanics of consciousness, however.
Eye in the Sky is a little less complex than some of Dick's subsequent works on the same theme--The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1964) and Ubik (1968) for example--but this is the one where I first learned to love PKD, with opened mind.

1 comment:

Lord Running Clam said...

Doug, I just discovered your blog and as a big Philip K. Dick fan wanted to tell you that for me too EYE IN THE SKY was the first of his novels that blew my mind.