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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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 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...
Published on Jan. 23 2007 by Craobh Rua

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars surreal, mysterious and vague
The nightmare of an alternate history in which the Nazis concquered the world? Unfortunately, the story dissappoints because it doesn't sound as nightmarish as it suggests.
For those who've never heard of this book, "Castle" offers an oppressed and subjugated America long since conquered by the Axis powers of the War. America is divided between the Japanese...
Published on Oct. 9 2003 by Rottenberg's rotten book review


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What If ?, Jan. 23 2007
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. He runs American Artistic Handcrafts, which sells "ethnic" American antiques to the Japanese, such as guns, comic-books - even framed, signed pictures of Jean Harlow ! Childan knows his place : the Japanese are at least one step above him on the ladder and, although there's a certain amount of admiration for them, there's also a great deal of resentment directed towards them also. His admiration for the Nazis, however, is untroubled by any such conflict. Nobuske Tagomi, the Head of the Japanese Imperial Trade Mission in San Francisco, is an occasional customer of Childan's. Tagomi is being used as a middle-man for a meeting between a representative of the Japanese government and a man called Baynes - apparently a Swedish national - and is hoping Childan will be able to supply a suitable gift.

What Childan doesn't realise is that much of his merchandise is fake. When Frank Frinks is introduced, he has just been sacked from his job with one of Childan's suppliers. He then goes into business himself, creating original jewellery - something he'll obviously need a market for. Frank has been divorced for about a year, though he seems to think constantly of Juliana, his ex-wife. Juliana, meanwhile, has been living in the Rocky Mountain State, working as a judo instructor - things start to change dramatically for her when she meets a lorry-driver called Joe.

Two books play a key role in "The Man in the High Castle". One is the "I Ching", the ancient Chinese Book of Divination. Many use it to guide their decisions and lives on a daily basis - Tagomi in particular. The other iscalled "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy", a work of fiction written by a man called Hawthorn Abendsen. It describes a world where the Allies won the war - as a result, it has been banned by both the Germans and the Japanese. Given his unpopularity with the world's two great powers, Abendsen is said to live in a heavily fortified home and has become known as "The Man in the High Castle".

This is the first book by Philip K Dick that I've read, though it won't be the last. It's comfortably one of the best books that I've read this year and it's one that would appeal to more than just the ardent science-fiction fan. Very highly recommended !
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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 (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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
By 
C. Myers "leanleaper" (Simi Valley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars surreal, mysterious and vague, Oct. 9 2003
The nightmare of an alternate history in which the Nazis concquered the world? Unfortunately, the story dissappoints because it doesn't sound as nightmarish as it suggests.
For those who've never heard of this book, "Castle" offers an oppressed and subjugated America long since conquered by the Axis powers of the War. America is divided between the Japanese consolidated states of the Pacific coast and the German dominated eastern-American sphere - though Dick suggests the Nazis as the more ambitious of the two victors. Still a militaristic society, the Japanese themselves are comparatively benign - polite invaders who maintain their occupation from restricted enclaves while spending their time acquiring "Americana" (American swords, billboards, vintage clothes, jewelry, etc..) The Germans have been busier, and Dick hints early that, as far as Germany is concerned, the Earth isn't big enough for two empires. The horrors of the Nazi genocide aren't fleshed out - Dick stays deliberately vague - there are hints of a horror in Africa, while the futuristic Nazis share the racial ideas of the historical Nazis. Between the Japanese and German dominated territories, a vast no-man's land exists in which people try to survive by exploiting each side's distrust of the other, guided by the I-Ching. When the novel opens, we learn that the Nazis are on the verge of planning two new wars - one against their enemies, but firs a battle among their own inner circle. At the center of everything lives the man of the castle himself - a recluse who has penned an underground best-selling novel which brazenly exalts and America that actually won WWII.
As a straight novel, "Castle" is an incredible disappointment. It's way-out characters (who are dominated by I-Ching), unresolved and seldom co-mingling plot-lines and barely fleshed out tension will make you feel that you've read hundreds of pages of a novel that never starts. Dick was supposed to have written "Castle" under great tension himself - constantly revolted by the evils of history's Nazis, but you won't see that here. You'd think that a world largely dominated (or even populated) by Nazis would be outright horrific - dotted by death factories, criss-crossed by railways carrying fresh victims - but that clashes with the tone Dick offers, which is simply surreal. (according to Dick legend, the author was too horrified to follow up "Castle" with a sequel. Instead, darkly inspired by the Nazi vision of a world divided between humans and seemingly identical beings otherwise deprived of human rights, Dick gave us the novel that became "Blade Runner" - with illegal androids subbing for genocide's victims.) Even the focus on I-Ching is unnerving (once Dick has educated us as to what I-Ching is, it soon begins to appear as if he used it to finish this book).
On a deeper level, one can still appreciate the irony - not on Dick's alternate history, but on the alternate history created by Dick's fictional man in the castle. We learn of his novel, "The Grasshopper lies heavily" long before we get a look at what's on its pages. Knowing of its premise of a triumphant America, we're supposed to imagine that Grasshopper's America will look much like our own. Near the end, when one of our "heores" looks into "Grasshopper" we learn that its vision does not stay close to our own for very long, at first closer to reality than that of "Castle". The cracks form once the west wins the war and must confront what became the "cold war", and we're left wondering which alternative reality is really the alternative reality, and which is simply a funhouse-mirror version of our own - one in which an ambitious super-power has scarred the world with its costly mistakes, tears itself apart in internecine battles and seeks to spread itself into space, likely in order to escape the charnel house it has made of the earth. Dick gave this story no ending, probably thinking that the scariest way to close a cautionary tale of an alternate time is to show you how alternate it's not.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great at times, tedious at others, Nov. 11 2014
What if the Axis had won the Second World War? In The Man in the High Castle, Dick imagines an alternate history in which Pearl Harbour knocks the US out of the war, the Nazis stage a successful invasion of Great Britain, and Japan and Germany emerge as Cold War rivals instead of the US and USSR.

The novel is set roughly 15 years after the war's end and follows several characters, including Frank Frink, a secret Jew who manufactures counterfeit pre-war American antiques; his wife Juliana who takes up with Joe, a man claiming to be an Italian veteran; and Japanese and German secret agents. While most of the characters' storylines only intersect briefly, they all in some way relate to—and in some cases drastically alter—the increase in German-Japanese tensions after the death of the German Chancellor and the resulting power vacuum.

The Man in the High Castle has quite an interesting premise, but the first three-quarters of the novel is quite slow. Here Dick is very heavy on dialogue and light on action—I suppose that reflects the Cold War atmosphere, but it doesn't make for great reading, especially given that much of the dialogue is not to do with the interesting political intrigue, but with Frank's attempts to open up a new jewelry manufactory or an antique dealer's attempts to impress a successful Japanese client.

It is not until the last quarter of the book that the man himself in the High Castle really enters, as it becomes clear that he is being targeted for assassination by German agents as the result of his novel exploring an alternate history in which the Axis had lost the Second World War. At the same time, the backchannel dealings between Germany and Japan reach a climax with the leak of a shocking plan proposed by the new Chancellor Goebbels.

True to the style of Philip K Dick, the storyline about the novel implies that the Axis-ruled world somehow might not be real, and that in reality, the Axis lost the war. Given the political storyline, however, my preferred interpretation is more straightforward: the Axis did win the immediate war, but lose in the end as the war-hungry Nazi ideology—captured succinctly in Goebbels' new plan—will ultimately and inevitably lead to the total nuclear war that our own US and USSR just barely managed to avoid.

Three stars overall: at times it feels like Dick is writing two novels, and only one of them lived up to my expectations for a Hugo award-winner.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good work by Dick, but not his most fun, Aug. 7 2010
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. While this is touted to be perhaps his best work, there are other Dick books I recommend you try first, but coming from Dick's mastery of writing, this book should not be over looked (just look at it after you have read more Dick!)
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5.0 out of 5 stars On the track of the I Ching., June 19 2004
By 
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
By 
Doug Mackey (Fairfield, IA USA) - See all my reviews
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Fictional Characters Learning about the Real World, May 19 2004
By A Customer
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
By 
Erik Bruchez (Foster City, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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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