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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

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. 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...
Published 10 months ago by Rose

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3.0 out of 5 stars Surprising, but not as good as it could have been, April 18 2004
Erik Bruchez (Mountain View, 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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4.0 out of 5 stars History...., April 7 2004
D. L. Kroeker (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
As a History grad and military history buff I found this book positively creepy and chilling!! It literally wrenches your insides because in it is a dark, terrifying, nightmare world that Dick creates in which HISTORY goes horribly, horribly wrong. After all, we're the "good guys", right? I mean we WON the war and the "bad guys" lost. Not so in this book and the WAY the bad guys won the war is fascinating. Dick gives it to us in tiny little morsels instead of all at once. Ex. "One of these lighters was in FDR's pocket when he was assassinated." WHOAH. Or "when the Germans took Malta...." or "during the Battle of London...." Dick takes you on a ride and shakes you. He tells you what the Nazis did to Europe and Africa after they won the war and how they are leading the space program and taking their deadly values to the stars. His portrayal of the Americans as second-class citizens in their own country indebted to Nazi economic reconstruction or Japanese slightly condescending humanitarianism is so real. He has a philosophical undertone throughout which is represented by the I Ching which has become the oracle of choice to the lowly Americans who try to make sense of their place in this new world. A book has been written inside this one which asserts that Germany and Japan DID lose the war and the Nazis and Japanese try to suppress it but at the same time find it irresistibly compelling as if its "truth" is truer than their realities. Man in the High Castle gives you a sense of hope in the end that the yanks will see this underlying truth amidst the stark reality of their present. Truly, though, this book is so real that as you are reading it you may find yourself shuddering and glancing through some history books just to make sure....
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4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating contemplation of history, March 29 2004
There's little need to contribute another general positive review of this insightful and fascinating novel, as it seems abundantly clear from the reviews that this is indeed a worthwhile read (with the dissenting opinions of the erudite anti-intellectual salesmen duly noted and dismissed). However, what seems to be lacking in the helpful criticism is the main theme of Dick's novel, an individual's relationship with history. Dick is interested in the extreme subjectivity of history, a phenomenon that is created based on human perception at and of a given intersection of space and time, a subjective perception that is then cast into an artificially objective mold. We create standards for verifying for athenticating, to show that something of historic value is universally important, not just an indiosycrasy of an individual. Certain objects are endowed with historicity, a connection with a universally recognized important historical event or figure, and are thus deemed valuable. Similary, certain events are judged arbitrarily (by, say, the victors of a war) and the world is then forced to abide by all their values and standards of determination. In this sense, one feels trapped by history, that is until they realize that they have been coerced into going along with an arbitary system of values that have never really existed beyond a subjective idea. Once the artifice of objectivity has been breached, the subjective creative forces behind history are revealed. The oppressive, at times nightmarish quality of history is superceded by an empowered individual, one who recognizes the manifold plurality of individual perception, in touch with the taoist principles of the simulateous coexistence of the absolute possibility and impossibility of everything in the world.
Dick's ending is abrupt, but because it stops the reader short, he is almost forced to contemplate what was said before closing the book with any kind of satisfaction. It's a brilliant writing technique. It's really a shame that businessmen on airplanes didn't like this book because they're too busy selling things and don't have time to think. You really hate to see that kind of esteemed reader demographic become alienated. Stick to the t.v., pal. God forbid you should read too much and accidentally be inspired to think, you might start to resemble a (cringe!) COLLEGE PROFESSOR! We all shudder at the thought.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back On It,Years Later., March 16 2004
I have read this book perhaps two or thre times,and recall being hugely impressed when I first read it.I re-read it,along with a lot of other P.K.D books,many years later,and didn't find it as enthralling.I think that it is a flawed masterpiece,and agree with many of the criticisms made by other reviewers (weak conclusion;flat characters,etc.).However,all of the reviewers who didn't like it have written well-thought out criticisms;except two of them.One of the reviewers is remarkable in the staggeringly bad standard of his writing:grammar,synatax,etc.The one I am referring to, arrogantly states that readers want to be entertained,rather than have their minds expanded.Where is this engraved in stone?I have some advice for this person:don't attempt anything written by either Nabokov or Jorge Luis Borges.Ursula Le Guinn compared P.K.D with the latter.Both were novelists of ideas,and didn't really put much effort into "rounded" characters.
I believe that the book is going to be adapted for the big screen,as most of P.K.D's books will eventually be.If his mind had been more focussed,"The Man In The High Castle" would have been great.The angry reviewer has a problem (and cannot even spell) college professors.He also urges us to read a biography by some who "made this country." Does he have any suggestions? Innumerable,anonymous immigrants did all of that.I don't think that they had time to write a gripping biography.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The ending is you, stupid., Feb. 17 2004
That title does not even come close to giving the ending away. It reminded me of the movie "the Ring" when the actors look out at the crowd at the end.
This is simply a great book and I wouldn't even classify it as Sci-fi only as fiction. By the end of the book I felt as if I knew the characters personaly. I especialy empathised with the store owner and his search for a place and a meaning in his world. Did you figure out why he couldn't?
If you don't like to think through ideas on your own without having the author spell them out for you then this is not the book for you. But if you're prone to contemplation I would highly recommend it.
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1.0 out of 5 stars What a boring book!, Jan. 12 2004
L. Ellis (NYC) - See all my reviews
I read this book on the way to a business trip to Aruba. I wished I would of watched the movie on the flight. Who are the people writing these reviews? This book was horrible. I lived in Japan for 5 years when I worked for Toyota, and this is not the kind of life they live. Even in parts of the country where Western influence has not spoiled the old ways, people don't live like they are portrayed in this book. And I understand the "underlining meaning" about this book. Still, it is boring and the writer can't carry the story. He leaves many loose ends. This book is great for people that have time to think about these underlining themes. Most of these people think they are so smart to figure these themes out. Most everyone else understands these thing, but don't care. Theyw ant a book to entertain, not to expand their mind. If you are in a career you love, work for a living (unlike some college proffesor) and enjoy your life you understand these themes already. So get a life. Read a business bio about someone who built this country! Not a book by someone who hates life and did not get enough attention for their daddy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hats off, gentlemen, a genius., Dec 4 2003
This book is IT. Forget everything your high school English teacher forced you to read: It's because of books like this one that Americans have not completely abandoned the ancient art of scanning text on paper. PKD is one of the greatest American authors and it's a good thing he's not assigned in schools, so he can only be read for pleasure.
This is science fiction only in it being set in an alternate history. There are no zapotron rays or electroframmistans to muddle the scenery between the characters and the world they're in. Read it carefully, because it's a PKD novel and that means you're going on a schizophrenic ride somewhere in the novel.
This one schizes out at the end, where many PKD books discharge their psychedelic payloads, and that freaks out a lot of the straights in the general population. They miss the point that PKD is about shifting frames of reality and that the end itself sets you up with a question as to which world you live in and the dilemma of being forced to disbelieve things you enjoy and the pain of having them vanish for you.
Most humans don't get PKD, but he's all the rage on Yuggoth. Tentacles up on this one.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Dick, Nov. 30 2003
With works like this and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" it is odd that Phillip K Dick is not more widely read than he is, as his books rate for the most part with the doyens of American 20th century literature. This is the curse, I guess, of being branded a Sci-Fi Writer. It's embarassing to admit you like Sci-Fi.
The Man in the High Castle is superbly realised and depicted, and as with most of Dick's fiction, the outward subject of the book (in this case an alternative history of the 20th Century in which the Axis won the war and Japan and Germany conquered America) is only really the setting for a fascinating examination of the human protagonists, and the dilemmas of life they face inside it.
For this reason alone, his books have tended not to date; the particular issues they address are not of technology or history, but largely of personality and "spirituality" (for want of a better word).
The Man In The High Castle is also very well observed - in partiucular the ever-so slightly contorted constructions of Japanese English emanating from those in the Pacific States (whether Japanese or not) are very cleverly done. It is noteworthy that Dick doesn't stoop to make soft scores: there is little overt reference to the atrocities of the Second World War, and neither the German not the Japanese occupations are depicted as wholly brutal or totalitarian regimes - this is implied to an extent for the German regime, but none of the action really takes place there, and the Japanese government is portrayed surprisingly sympathetically, particularly at an individual level.
Ultimately, The Man In The High Castle descends out of focus and into incoherency, but as mentioned above, plot wasn't really what interested Dick, and this tends to be a characteristic of his novels.
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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Original, powerful, well written - a great novel, Oct. 7 2003
Antoine J. Bachmann (Vandoeuvres, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
What more can I say?
In the disguise of something simple and matter-of-fact, PDK comes up with a very powerful alternate reality story. He is one of the few writers who can master this so effortlessly, at least as far as the reader can tell.
Simply wonderful.
And too bad this book is still mostly limited to Sci-Fi circles.
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The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (Mass Market Paperback - July 1992)
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