Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick
Jack Hamilton has just lost his job as an engineer for a government defense contractor because his wife Marsha is a suspected communist sympathizer. Having nothing better to do for the afternoon, he accompanies Marsha to the viewing of a new linear accelerator. An accident at the accelerator beams the Hamiltons and six other unsuspecting citizens into a parallel universe that at first appears to be their world but soon starts to evince subtle differences that become more and more obvious as time goes on. There is some sort of “corny Arab religion” at work — God is all justice and no mercy so, for example, telling a lie brings down an immediate curse such as a bee sting.
There are miracles here that can be taken advantage of, such as a cigarette machine that Jack, a darn good engineer, manages to rig up to produce unlimited supplies of excellent brandy, but generally this is an uncomfortable world that most of them would like to get out of. When they surmise that they are actually living in one of their group’s fantasy worlds, they figure out how to escape. Unfortunately, they don’t return to the real world. Instead, they move on to the fantasy world of another of the group, and then another, and then another.
Though it starts out pretty seriously, the plot of Eye in the Sky eventually becomes rather amusing as we view the world from different people’s distorted perspectives. Eye in the Sky was written in 1957, long before Philip K. Dick’s plots became obtuse and dominated by incoherent hallucinogenic sequences. Some of the story goes on too long and some of it may be distasteful to those of certain races, those with certain mental disorders, or those with certain political or religious beliefs, but that’s nothing new for old science fiction, and Dick has plenty to say on these topics. As usual, it’s really hard to like most of Dick’s characters — they’re obsessed, irrational, and phobic — but we can sympathize with Jack and Marsha Hamilton, at least.
I listened to Brilliance Audio’s recent publication of Eye in the Sky which was narrated by Dan John Miller. He was new to me, but I was pleased with his performance and recommend this version. Eye in the Sky is worth a read — it’s a good novel that shows Philip K. Dick very early in his career.