The Philip K. Dick series continues.
Raw Feed (1989): Eye in the Sky, Philip K. Dick, 1957.
Like all Philip K. Dick novels, this one was weird, humorous, and sometimes horrifying.
The premise — a Bevatron accident releasing enough energy for individual neurotic world views to be materially realized — is absurd and quite compelling and fascinating.
As usual in Dick’s works, there is much black humor here and just plain humor: horses with trousers, a magical vending machine, scientists consulting prayer wheels.
And, as usual, the dialogue is real, particularly the sarcasm of Jack Hamilton and Bill Laws.
The characters are well-done though definitely less well-developed than in latter novels — this was the fourth novel Dick published. The relationship between Marsha and Jack Hamilton is well-drawn. We really care that their marriage may be hurt by Charles McFeyffe’s accusation of Marsha’s communism.
Dick’s concern, as usual, is for the individual and here, as in Dr. Bloodmoney, is an early black character in sf — not, as Dick said in an interview, a saint or martyr but a real, if put upon, character with flaws, neuroses, and a need for security.
McFeyffe tries to destroy Marsha Hamilton and, indirectly, Jack, because she is a member of the “cult of individualism” unwilling to go along with communism or the status quo in toto. Hence, both sides are seen here as a threat. Clearly, though, she is a character Dick felt laudable and much like him.
The novel is clearly about political orders imposing, like the three neurotics’ worlds, their order on reality even to the point of altering behavior of individuals and their appearance (a genuinely scary part of the book).
However, the book’s most vicious attack is reserved for communism. (A great scene is the flaming slogans wrecking destruction on the earth after falling from the sky). Jack Hamilton refers to it as insane, prudish, and father-worshipping –the worst features of the other three fantasy worlds. However, it is not as scary as Miss Reiss’ paranoid world.
In the last analysis, though, it is the central ideal of this book that makes it so memorable: that we may impose our neuroses on reality to the detriment of others and, like Reiss, ourselves. And, of course, a corollary exists: that our bodies and minds are molded by others’ views of reality and, like Silke, we may not realize it. Dick gives us a frightening, thought-provoking metaphor for politics and society.