Posts Tagged ‘McCarthyism in USA’

Philip K Dick: Eye in the Sky

November 28, 2018

downloadThis is one of Dick’s novels that I return to quite regularly; indeed you can read what I last wrote about it five years ago here.

The setting reflects the era the author was living in when he wrote it, a United States under McCarthyite suspicion and persecution of radicals, using thin and often hearsay evidence to destroy careers and lives. The hero is involved in an accident while visiting what seems to be a particle beam accelerator or something like it: Dick blinds us with plausible-sounding 1950s science to get us on board. Recovering, our hero realises that something is not quite right with the world…

A small group of people were in the accident, and the world is governed by the subconscious of several of them in turn, in various unnerving or horrifying solipsistic worlds. The first is a religious fundamentalist war veteran – Dick is off on already familiar track, inventing a crackpot religion to rule the world; the laws of matter in our world do not obtain there; all the veteran’s stereotypes of different people govern their behaviour. When the characters realise who is warping their lives and attack him, the world slips into the control of a Victorian female fuddy-duddy who just abolishes anything she doesn’t like the look or thought of. We also spend time in the subconscious world of a woman with paranoid delusions, and a cartoon-book McCarthyite communist who turns out not to be the person we expected…

It all sounds confusing, but it isn’t, as Dick sweeps us along in a fast-paced story that is totally focused at the human level, once the initial SF-style accident gets his characters where he wants them. What really interests him is the subconscious and where it might lead us if it had unlimited power: which of us hasn’t ever dreamt of being world-dictator and planning what we would do with that power? Equally, Dick is aware that aspects of our subconscious and unconscious minds actually do control the way we perceive other people and the world, and how this contributes to who we are, and our relative happiness or sadness as humans.

It’s a novel to make us think, perhaps to explore some of those hidden parts of ourselves that we are dimly aware of beneath the surface.

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