Eye in the Sky is one of Dick’s first novels (published just after Solar Lottery and The World Jones Made) and the first time he took a handful of acquaintances and strangers, threw them into a world that wasn’t real and let them figure it out. He would reuse this setup later in A Maze of Death and in his classic Ubik… and he would continue the idea of ‘what is reality’ in nearly everything he wrote.
A group of sightseers at a particle accelerator falls through a proton beam when a platform collapses. As they imagine they recover they actually wake into a chain of worlds created in the mind of each individual as they regain consciousness one by one.
In the first half of the book they are trapped in the mind of war veteran Arthur Silvester whose world is ruled by an Old Testament-like god, the titular eye in the sky.* After incapacitating Silvester the group progresses through several more worlds until there is a twist around whether or not Hamilton’s wife is a Communist sympathizer, a question the book begins with when Hamilton is fired from his job at a missile research facility over the Red Scare concerns about his wife’s allegiances.
Overall a funny and thought-provoking early work.
*Originally intended to be the Biblical Judeo-Christian God but rewritten by Dick at the publisher’s request as a Muslim god of an obscure Arabic cult so as not to offend any readers of 1950’s America.
Cast of characters
- Jack Hamilton – employee at the California Maintenance missile research lab
- Marsha Hamilton – Hamilton’s wife
- Colonel Edwards – head of California Maintenance
- Charley McFeyffe – captain of security at California Maintenance
- Arthur Silvester – a war veteran. Creator of universe 1 overseen by the eye in the sky
- Bill Laws – the guide at the Bevatron particle accelerator
- Edith Pritchet – creator of the sexless and inoffensive universe 2
- David Pritchet – Edith’s son
- Joan Reiss – creator of the paranoiac universe 3
- Guy Tillingford – head of the Electronics Development Agency
- Horace Clamp – a prophet of the Second Bab
- Silky – a barfly Hamilton first meets in Silvester’s world