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The Man in the High Castle [Paperback]

Philip K. Dick
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 24 2012
“The single most resonant and carefully imagined book of Dick’s career.” – New York Times

It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.

This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

Winner of the Hugo Award

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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

Over a writing career that spanned three decades, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) published 36 science fiction novels and 121 short stories in which he explored the essence of what makes man human and the dangers of centralized power. Toward the end of his life, his work turned toward deeply personal, metaphysical questions concerning the nature of God. Eleven novels and short stories have been adapted to film; notably: Blade Runner (based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall, Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly. The recipient of critical acclaim and numerous awards throughout his career, Dick was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2005, and in 2007 the Library of America published a selection of his novels in three volumes. His work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.


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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
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 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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4.0 out of 5 stars A good work by Dick, but not his most fun Aug. 7 2010
Format:Paperback
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. In it one finds a North America that is dominated by the Japanese and a Europe that is filled with the cut throat inner politics of the Nazi party where the Nazis are prone to stab each other in the back. We follow the story of a Jewish man hiding in his labour, his ex-wife as she comes to realize what the world would be like if the Allies won the war, and a cast of other characters that includes a Japanese Trade Official and an American antique dealer. In this novel Dick approaches the problem of the meaning of a life in a deranged society, much like he does in his other novels.

I found this book to be one of Philip K. Dick's most literary works. However, this novel is by no means my favourite of his works that I have read. I prefer the mind-bending realities that Dick presents in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch or the well crafted character study of Rick Deckard In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I did find this work to have the most polished and coherent plot of the three Dick books that I have read. That this is the case does not mean that this book did not have it's slower moments, especially near the end of the novel when an art object is contemplated a little too long for my taste.

Overall, I would recommend this novel to those who are looking for a good philosophical novel by the master of introspective science fiction. Although this novel technically does not have any futuristic sci-fi elements, the argument can be made that the alternate reality Dick creates is in it's own way sci-fi. This book may be award winning (Hugo award), but I found parts of this book to be extremely slow in the manner of some 19th century novels.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good author, love this stuff
Published 1 month ago by andrew
3.0 out of 5 stars a nice work for anyone who feels that the current news ...
It may be just me, but the ending was a let down. I can understand why I had never run into this work before although I have been a SciFi reader for many decades. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Anne
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 13 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 14 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 22 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
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 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 6 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
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