Sunday, 5 March 2017

Book Review - Eye in the Sky by Big PKD

To say that Dick was ahead of his time, is to say that winter in Arctic is a tad nippy.

What would modern media, modern sci-fi, look like without his stories of paranoia and existential terror? Maybe the same - the ambiguities of modernity that fuelled his neurosis (well, that and drugs) are more present and relevant than they were when he was around. Increasingly we interact with worlds that don't exist, and the one that does is being increasingly bent around creatures like Twitter and Facebook. Nonetheless, break down most big sci-fi films or TV shows nowadays, and you'll find them filled with Dick's DNA, like zeitgeist induced bastard children.

Which is to say, it's really odd that he's such a bad writer.

Bad may be an oversimplification. No one could argue that his ideas are anything less than big and interesting. Paranoia seeps from the pages with such vigour that it's clearly coming from somewhere very genuine. Few can create such a cloying and personal sense of threat and distrust of your very senses.

Eye in the Sky is a funny book, as it doesn't even have that - certainly not to the same extent. It follows a small group of characters as they are involved in accident involving lasers, and find themselves in a world which is subtly (then not so subtly) different.

Eye in the Sky is a funny book not just because it hasn't really got Dick's strengths on full display, but because it is also stronger in a more conventional sense. The prose is better - much better in fact, whilst still being recogniseable Dick. It flows better, sets a better pace. The side characters, too, are given unique personalities and space to breath, and beyond the plot itself is intertwined with who they are as people.

The dialogue is still bad, but you can't have everything.

What makes this book so curious is the fact that despite being stronger in many ways than a lot of his other stories, it is probably one of the weaker of his that I have read. The idea is great, the characters are better than your usual Dick fare, but the complete package is somehow less. Perhaps it is because Dick is best when he's just doing what he is good at.

The ending is a problem - it does not, in any real meaningful way, relate to the story. It has an uncharacteristically happy tone, and any ambiguity that may have been implied was lost. Eye in the Sky was listed by Dick himself as one of his most important books - for myself, I'd recommend giving this one a miss.

No comments:

Post a Comment