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Man In the High Castle [Hardcover]

Philip K Dick
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1962
What if the Allies had lost the Second World War ...? The Nazis have taken over New York - the Japanese control California. In a neutral buffer zone existing between the two states an underground author offers his own vision of reality, an alternative world that offers hope to the disenchanted ...Hugo Award winner Philip K Dick is one of the most original contributors to American sci-fi, and his books were the basis for the critically acclaimed films "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall".
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Dick began writing in the 1950s, a decade haunted by the Cold War and a decade which witnessed the blossoming of science fiction. While this form of literature was already haunting the margins of culture as early as 1926, when Hugo Gernsback identified it as "scientifiction", it was the terror of science gone mad-the atomic bomb-that gave science fiction its first, heroin-like shot in the arm.
In some ways the fear of nuclear war is just another expression of a theme that has seized the attention of literary theorists, philosophers and social scientists alike: how stable is "reality"? This is the great postmodern question, which has led theorists like Jean Baudrillard to conclude that even protests against the current multinational consumer system are programmed by the system, Michel Foucault to argue that the totalitarian momentum of this system seeks to colonize that last refuges of human freedom, one of these being our unconscious minds, and Daniel Bell to open up the possibility that the consumption of images and simulacra will continue to the point where "reality" may be nothing more than a series of products that one can purchase.
The Man in the High Castle novel presented the ultimate hallucinatory reality for the 20th century-a reality in which the Axis powers won World War II. Into this world, which Dick peoples with memorable characters, comes a novel written by a man who supposedly lives in a defended compound-the High Castle-in the nominally independent Rocky Mountain States. This novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, portrays a reality which powerfully affects everyone who reads it: a reality in which the Axis lost the war. Dick deepens the sense of dislocation for his characters and for the readers when the death of Reichschancellor Martin Bormann unleashes a power struggle in the Reich that will affect top secret Operation Dandelion-the planned nuclear attack on the Japanese Home Islands. To his horror, the Japanese Consul in San Francisco, Tagomi, discovers that the only leadership candidate opposed to Dandelion is Reinhard Heydrich, head of the dreaded S.D., and to save itself Japan must support the evil of the black uniform-an evil which has completed the holocaust in Europe and demands the surrender of Jews even in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America; an evil which has exterminated the black population of Africa in fifteen years. Tagomi literally becomes ill at discovering the reality of evil and concludes that humans are insects "...groping toward something terrible or divine." Tagomi manages to perform one small moral action-refusing to accede to a German request to extradite Jew Frank Frink from the P.S.A. to the Reich, and this action is echoed by Wegener, a representative of a German faction trying to thwart Dandelion: "We can only control the end by making a choice at each step."
The novel ends with Frink's wife Juliana discovering that the real "author" of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is the I-Ching and that the novel is actually the "truth"-Germany and Japan lost the war. While this realization does not heal her reality-save for the fact that her journey has prompted her to want to rejoin her husband-it stands as a symbol that transcends the book and speaks directly to the reader. The Man in the High Castle is thus, itself, an assault on reality-a work of fiction's internal reality. The reader of 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, cannot help but feel that, despite its terrors, the Cold War is inevitable and preferable to the only historical alternative that could have prevented it.
Patrick R. Burger (Books in Canada) -- Books in Canada --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Philip K Dick was born in Chicago in 1928, but lived most of his life in California. He began reading science fiction when he was 12 and was never able to stop. Among the most prolific and eccentric of s-f writers, Dick's many novels and stories allbelend a sharp and quirky imagination with a strong sense of the surreal. The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award in 1963. Other novels include: The Penultimate Truth, Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Time Out of Joint. He died in 1982. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of PK Dick June 21 2004
Format:Paperback
I doubt there are many writers as wildly inconsistent as Dick. He can be vapid and very bad--stylistically and materially--or knock-your-socks-off intelligent and excellent. This book is ranked among the latter.
The book's main theme is the one that Dick excels at developing in challenging, complicated, and provocative narrative situations--the theme of the nature of reality. A recent bio-novel about Dick by Emmanuel Carrere makes the point that novels such as The Man in the High Castle are very likely pretty accurate reflections of Dick's mind and often unsettled mental state; that is, he often doubted what was real in his own life timeline.
Many of my friends are disappointed with the conclusion of the novel, but I think Juliana Frink had it right at the end--while the novel describes an alternate timeline, it is really about our very own timeline.
If you've ever speculated about historical turning points--what if an event had or hadn't taken place--you will really enjoy this novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On the track of the I Ching. June 19 2004
Format:Paperback
This book earned 1963 Hugo Prize and well deserved. PKD shows his master writing craft depicting an alternate world in which Allied has lost the war. The USA is dismembered into three different countries: one under the influence of the Germans, one under Japanese influence and the third one in the middle of the other two.
The plot follows different threads showing how life is in this barren new world. Germans had expanded over Africa and carried there their "final solution" schema. In contrast the Japanese show a more humanistic and restrained politic, but falling back in technological aspects, they are menaced with extinction.
Two books inside this book pick up the center of the show: the Chinese book of Changes (I Ching) and the fictional "The Locust is Down" describing an alternate world more near to ours but NOT the same. This last twist is a provoking "what if " inside another one.
PKD describes his characters with a firm hand, giving them deep human traits. They strive to survive against dangerous odds. At the same time they try to discover the ultimate sense of life.
As I've seen in some other great sci-fi books, behind the surface of the current action lie powerful moral and ethic questions.
The end of the novel satisfactorily closes all threads.
When I first read this book in the early '60s, I was puzzled by the I Ching and started studying it and finally consulting it. A great experience to be sure.
A real Classic with capital letter. Enjoy!
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Which one is the alternate reality? June 6 2004
Format:Paperback
Winner of the Hugo Award in 1962, the basic premise of this book is irresistible: that there is an alternate universe in which Germany and Japan won World War II. Philosophically, the book has proved deep enough to spark plenty of critical debate, and its use of the I Ching helped popularize that five-thousand-year-old Chinese oracle in America in the 1960s. Naziism is portrayed as an unmitigated evil, the yang to Japan's yin, and the Japanese come off much better in comparison, becoming humane rulers in the world of the novel, which is set in California. Even more interesting than the alternate history scenario are the questions the novel raises about ontological priority-which reality is real and which fake? Are we the ones living in the fictitious reality? Additionally, the characters are memorable and subtly drawn. Their lives touch tangentially in a fascinating dance. The narrative point of view switches among them, often in a stream-of-consciousness mode, in one of Dick's most successful uses of the multi-focal technique.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
It looks like many people misunderstood this book. This book is certainly not an alternative history in terms of a plot. The alternative history provides at most a setting. The point of the book is not whether Operation Dandelion is carried out or thwarted; the point is comparing where the characters stand in their "alternate" reality to what is really real. At the end of the book, some of the characters discover what we know to be real: that Germany and Japan actually lost the war. Some of the details in the Grasshopper book are wrong because the I Ching just gave the general outline, and Abendsen filled in the details. In this way, it seems that the I Ching wishes to give the characters some comfort for their dreary existence under totalitarian rule. This theme has parallels in both philosophy and religion from both the East and West. The first that came to my mind was the Cave analogy from Plato's Republic, with the characters that are trapped in a dark shadowy world they perceive to be reality until the Sun illuminates everything to show things as they actually are. Dick has said before that what makes a sf story is not its setting, but that the central character is an idea that gets people to think. The central character in this book is certainly something to contemplate long after the book itself is put away. Highly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, but not as good as it could have been April 18 2004
Format:Paperback
This is a surprising opus. The action takes place in San Francisco in the 1960s. Japan and Germany won World War II twenty year earlier, and split the world between them. The two countries occupy each half of the United States. Germany has brought the final solution to an extreme in Africa. The few remaining Jews are prosecuted and have to hide even in the Japan-controlled Pacific States of America, where the I Ching (or Book of Changes) is used daily and referred to as the oracle. The Germans have the technological advantage: Lufthansa rockets connect the continents, and the conquest of space is well underway. This is the only aspect of The Man in the High Castle that could place it in the category of science-fiction.
Philip K. Dick uses fascinating characters to progressively immerse the reader in his utopia, rather than going for a completely descriptive approach. Three loosely connected sets of characters share the book: first, Robert Childan, Frank Frink and Ed McCarthy; then, Mr. Nobusuke Tagomi and Mr. Baynes, AKA Captain Rudolf Wegener; and finally, Juliana Frink and Joe. Juliana and Frank are married but separated, and never meet in the story. Mr. Tagomi is an occasional customer of Childan. The three sets of characters could as well have been completely disconnected.
The variations on the English language are quite interesting. The Japanese characters speak what could be called Japanese-English, quite consistently throughout the book. In addition, the German culture is never far away, and the occurences of German words are numerous, without being an obstacle to understanding the story.
An interesting twist is the presence in the story itself of a book, The Grasshoper Lies Heavy, which is about a world where Japan and Germany lost the war. This mise en abyme of the utopia is actually at the center of the story of Juliana, but in the end the plot falls short being really interesting. The last few pages in particular are quite anticlimatic.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating concept
This is only the second PKD book I have read and it has led me to a couple of thoughts about the man. One, he had an exceptional imagination. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Rose
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite seem to work for me...
First of all, I really enjoy Philip K. Dick's writing. His somewhat paranoid, what-is-human and what-is-reality approach to things comes across great in his short stories. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Daffy Bibliophile
4.0 out of 5 stars Have not read this book yet
I just realized this review should be about the content of the book itself - not about the condition of the book. Read more
Published 20 months ago by graham
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Philip K. Dick Classic
Philip K. Dick is a master of unconventional sci-fi and fantasy genre, and those qualities are clearly exhibited in this work. Read more
Published on May 4 2011 by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
4.0 out of 5 stars A good work by Dick, but not his most fun
The Man in the High Castle is a novel that offers an idea of what the world would be like if the Axis had won World War II. Read more
Published on Aug. 7 2010 by Columbus
2.0 out of 5 stars Mean book for mean minds
What is all the praise about? When I was finally able to read this book, after reading the high praising reviews, I was utterly disappointed. Where can I start my complaint? Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2009 by Robert A. Post
5.0 out of 5 stars What If ?
Philip K Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 but spent most of his life in California . By the time he died in 1982, he written over 30 science-fiction novels and more than 100 short... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2007 by Craobh Rua
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, but...
Dick takes us on a journey through one of the most unthinkable "what if" scenarios: Germany has won World War II. Read more
Published on April 25 2004 by "jradoff"
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