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
3.0 out of 5 stars Great at times, tedious at others
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...
Published 6 months ago by Jayson Vavrek
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4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating contemplation of history,
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Looking Back On It,Years Later.,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hats off, gentlemen, a genius.,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Dick,
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.
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 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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Now If Only It Had An Ending ...,
This is the novel Dick is best known for. It won him his Hugo award and put his name on sci-fi radar as a person to watch. And for the most part it is intensely interesting. Now if only it had an ending.
Although the concept of "what if the Nazis had won the war" has been beaten to death in straight-to-video action titles and alternate reality television series, it is important to realize that Dick was one of the first. This novel is old - it is from 1962 - and although the concept is a bit threadbare by now, Dick executes it well.
Contrary to the opinion of some readers, I was fascinated by how intimately Dick seemed to know his Japanese characters. Perhaps some people have different opinions of Japanese mentality, or are offended by any typifying of their mentality. But whether or not Dick's writing was objectively accurate, it was internally consistent and believable. That is what matters. He was able to create characters whose actions seemed logical based upon what we understood of them.
It is unfortunate that so few of the character arcs were given resolution, and that some of the more interesting plotlines were not developed (it would have been cool to read about the outcome of the supposed Nazi plan to attack Japan). But most of what Dick does present is interesting, so I can't really fault him for not writing about everything. It is a credit to his imagination that he created a world where there is so much stuff that he could only selectively develop a few ideas.
But then we come to that darn ending. Perhaps I just don't get it. Some have suggested that Dick was hinting that the Nazis really won. I find that too embarassingly pandering to believe - anyone can shout "the fascists really won" and get someone to cheer. There really is no grounds for such a statement, and Dick was a clever man. Some have suggested that Dick was merely revealing that this was, indeed, a fantasy world as an end to his story. I guess I just find that anticlimactic. Besides, the whole thing was kind of silly. The man doesn't protect himself - why don't the Nazis just kill him?
I find this problem with many of Dick's stories - he doesn't tend to finish with a strong statement or memorable line. This is in sharp contrast with Bester, who's better works (such as "The Stars My Destination") rise to a crescendo. However, Dick is much more gifted at fleshing out characters and internal monologues than Bester. So both have their strengths. I just wish Dick wouldn't let his stories taper off so lifelessly.
Because I was so enthralled in the book I read it very quickly. Thus getting to the dull sigh of an end was even more disppointing. I had these very interesting characters floating around in my head with nothing to do.
The quality of the writing earns it a 3 star rating from me. I cannot give it a higher rating because I just did not find it satisfying. Which is unfortunate, because I've almost worked my way through his available works.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest novels ever written,
By A Customer
This is quite possibly the greatest book I've ever read. It completely addicted me in the few short days it took to finish it, and really struck me with just how solid it was. It didn't have good characters but amateur writing, or good ideas but poor characters, and the quality was incredibly consistent, as it doesn't take long to suck you in, and doesn't feel like it has a single unneeded page, nor should anything have been done differently. What really makes this so perfect is how the ideas and setting are so well woven into the character's and their story. You may start off thinking "I'll read that book about the Axis winning WWII", but the book only reveals information about its setting as it pertains to the characters, and it works perfectly. By showing the world through the eyes of four excellent developed people, you get a much more real and vivid picture of the world while at the same time creating a much more enjoyable novel. The fact that Dick seamelessly layers interesting questions about reality on top of that just cements this novel's position as being as close to perfect as a book can be.
If you're going to read a Philip K. Dick novel, this will probably leave the strongest impression on you, although if you got into him from the many movies based on his works, you may want to start with one of the stories or novels that inspired them.
4.0 out of 5 stars What if the allies had lost WWII? And then...,
The Man in the High Castle takes place in a North America radically different than the one we know. Written in 1962, Philip K. Dick's vision is less science fiction that alternative fiction. The east coast is controlled by the Third Reich, the west by the Japanese, and the mountain states are all that remains of the old America.
Dick makes an interesting case, with his blend of historical and fictitious Axis and Allies characters that shaped the destiny of the world. He doesn't go into a lot of futuristic gadgetry, mostly just rockets that can take humans to the moon and Venus and Mars, along with a forty-five minute trip from Berlin to San Francisco. He hints at the experiments conducted by the Nazis, such as the draining of the Mediterranean Sea and the African atrocity.
What really makes this book stand out is the characters and how they are linked through this story. We see Robert Childan, a dealer in items of "historicity" and closet racist. There's Mr. Tagomi, a conservative but open-minded businessman who has a defining moment with an "antique" revolver and a bit of nouveau jewelry. Frank Frink is a Jew who has evaded the Holocaust and goes into business with a friend, making the new style of jewelry. His ex-wife, Juliana, embarks on a quest to find the writer of a popular, but controversial book, the titular "Man in the High Castle." Their lives are intertwined, along with their belief in the oracle of the I Ching and the attachment of value to things that belonged, or could have belonged, to someone famous or to a famous period. The past is linked to the present and future.
The story traces their lives, along with subplots involving the change of the German high command and a Swedish businessman who may not be all that he appears.
I liked the book because it's a thinker, one that makes you question how things might have been, how they are, and how they could be, along with variations if key events or people had not made certain choices of action. Recommended for fans of classic science fiction, fantasy and history alike.
5.0 out of 5 stars And Much of Madness,
As alternate reality novels go, this is the best. A world where the Axis won.
The genius of this novel is that it focuses not on the plucky agitators, but on the colonial officials. Their reactions to a country not their own (ours) make this much more than a worthwhile diversion.
Dick infuses the entire novel with a chase-scene paranoia, a rush that belies the characters' near constant consultation of the I-Ching. This lends a relentless focus to the book, which rushes on toward a conclusion that seems certain at one point, ambiguous the next, but always SO CLOSE.
This is supposedly a CLASSIC, as I've heard. I only know that it's an incredible work. ...and more of sin, and horror's the soul of the plot....
May 2003. Several recent reviews ask "what's the point?" and "he dances around the center of the novel!" To these folks I would say that A) there is no "point" per se, just what you bring to it with your own values, and B) the genius of this as opposed to some of his other works is that he DOESN'T show us the man behind the curtain. True, it enriches some novels immeasurably, but this is one best left in its beareaucratic otherworld.
And one more thing---if you can easily discern the central idea of a novel, why complain that the author somehow "misses" it? Try a more academic solution, such as "The author failed to fully explore the possibilities of the situation.." Or something...
5.0 out of 5 stars Why science fiction, and why aren't we reading it now?,
Dick's book is a novel of incredibly literary merit. I say this because it is about characters--at least five major ones--and they happen to live in a time where Germany and Japan won world war II, but this novel is much more than a nifty alternate history novel. The characters are rich and rewarding, and the choices they have to make living in a world where a minor difference made a major catastrophe are brilliantly thought out. With Germany in control of much of the world, TVs weren't invented until 1960 and only a few homes in Germany have them; Mars has been reached, but it's merely for dramatic effect, the Mediterranean has been drained and used as farmland; the African people have been decimated; the Jews nearly wiped out except for a few in disguise.
This book is about finding the truth inside deception. Everyone's got a little racket going, and then pops in a book that calls into question the history as they know it. It's about their reactions to this book, the possibility that maybe there is a way out, or a way back, or another way.
I love this book, and I think reading it now makes me more aware of the need to help the universe become less evil, not more so. That may mean taking responsibility for doing something about the evil--but if we don't, we get something like this book.
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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (Mass Market Paperback - July 1992)
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