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The Man in the High Castle [Mass Market Paperback]

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

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Book Description

December 1984
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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Review

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
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating concept Sept. 7 2013
By Rose TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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. Two, he wrote a lot more than necessary to get his point across.

The concept of this book, while totally original, was incredibly simple - what if Germany had won the war?
The whole story was regular life as it would be playing out had Hitler been victorious. There was only one wrinkle in this story...a man had written a book with the concept that Germany had lost the war. This man was known as the 'man in the high tower', describing his home which supposedly was a bit of a fortress for his protection. The book was incredibly popular and ultimately would lead to the Germans trying to assassinate him.

This all sounds incredibly good but in fact, I found most of the book rather boring. I loved the concept but not the execution. I'm not a fan of excessive writing although I know there are lot of people out there who do and will love this book for that fact.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite seem to work for me... Aug. 22 2013
By Daffy Bibliophile TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
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. But I really can't say the same for "The Man in the High Castle". It's a decent book, a well-told story, but something is lacking. PKD seems to have had the urge to write an alternative history novel in which the Axis powers win the Second World War, an urge that quite a few authors have given into. The result in this case is not the best writing that PKD produced. The story is there, the characters are fairly believable but it gets messy, never quite comes together as a whole, and PKD seems to lose his way towards the end. I guess this is basically a story about another dimension that intersects with our own at one point, but it might have been better if the author had expressed his ideas in a short story. Philip K. Dick was a great sci-fi writer but I feel that this is not one of his better works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What If ? Jan. 23 2007
Format:Paperback
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 stories. Some of the more famous films of recent years - including "Blade Runner" and "A Scanner Darkly" have been based on his work. "The Man in the High Castle " was first published in 1962 and went on to win the Hugo Award.

"The Man in the High Castle " isn't necessarily what many would consider to be a `typical' science-fiction novel : there are no little green men, androids don't appear, nobody feels the force and the heroes aren't boldly going. Set in the 1960s, the story takes place in a world where the Allies lost the Second World War : Japan is in control of Asia, while Germany is in control of Europe and Africa. The Germans have also drained the Mediterranean for farmland, and have applied the `final solution' to the peoples of Africa. America, meanwhile, has been divided into three states. Much of the action takes place in the Pacific Seaboard America region, which is under the control of Japan. The eastern section of America is ruled by Germany, while between the two is the Rocky Mountain Buffer State. Life under the Japanese is presented as being relatively benign - pleasant, even. This appears to contrast sharply with life under German rule, despite the fact this isn't actually shown in the book.

The book follows the lives of a group of very loosely connected individuals - though what affects one has repercussions for all. Robert Childan is introduced first : a native of San Francisco, Childan can vaguely remember life before the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Philip K. Dick Classic May 4 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Philip K. Dick is a master of unconventional sci-fi and fantasy genre, and those qualities are clearly exhibited in this work. It is set in 1960s America in a world in which Germany and Japan have won the World War II. US and the rest of the world are divided between those two superpowers, and we follow lives of several ordinary Americans who try to adjust themselves to this reality. The characters in the novel are fully developed in a manner that we've come to expect from Dick's later novels. Their personal struggles are intertwined with the new geopolitical power plays. The title of the novel refers to the sobriquet for Hawthorne Abendsen, a fictional writer of the book "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" which forms a story-within-a-story and a sort of MacGuffin for this novel. This fictional book will also be at the center of the denouement of this novel, and may provide the clue for what this novel was all about.

The Man in the High Castle is another brilliant and thought provoking novel. It is an engrossing and fun read as well, and a true classic of science fiction.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
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
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 On the track of the I Ching.
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. Read more
Published on June 19 2004 by Maximiliano F Yofre
5.0 out of 5 stars Which one is the alternate reality?
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. Read more
Published on June 7 2004 by Doug Mackey
5.0 out of 5 stars Fictional Characters Learning about the Real World
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. Read more
Published on May 19 2004
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"
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, but not as good as it could have been
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. Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by Erik Bruchez
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