on June 13, 2000
Science fiction writing - for those who think it's just make-believe fantasy - allows us to explore current issues from the safe light of afar - ('cause it's just make-believe fantasy, right?) While reading, we can make comparisons of modern racism or genocides with fictionalized aliens, and so on....
In this book, there are no aliens from outer space. This is an alternate view of our own history and other social issues in the days of Nazi Germany. The anonymous reviewer ("Things are Not as They Seem") has the BEST words on this book - read his/her review and then buy the book, if you haven't!
Here's my story - my first husband brought this book to me in 1968, as I lay in a hospital bed after the birth of our son. That's my kind of guy (though I didn't know it then!) We were barely out of our teen years, right in the midst of some major changes in the US.
Fresh out of high school, I hadn't bothered to think through much, and had grown up accepting the US's Number One Hero position in the world.
This book was fascinating, not just a sci fi escape, but a book that raised questions in my very young mind, questions I wouldn't have gone to on my own. What would our lives have been like if the Axis had won the war? The book is good for the liberal-minded, though the ending is...well - you need to read it yourself.
And it needs to be read and then discussed, in order to challenge that cocky belief we hold to be true, (a slightly masked form of global racism), that we are the chosen country.
It is time for someone to write on this theme again, but for now, this is a good read. If you liked Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here," or if the short story "The Lottery" got you thinking, you will enjoy reading this book.
on April 29, 2000
Philip K. Dick, as some reading this might be aware, was a science fiction writer whose stories served (loosely) as the basis for the films "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall." His short fiction exemplifies the maxim that science fiction is a "literature of ideas." The "idea" behind "The Man in the High Castle" is that of the alternative history: the Axis powers actually prevailed in World War II, and modern-day America (meaning, in this case, the 1960's, when the book was first published) has been roughly split into two spheres of influence, German and Japanese.
How pleasantly surprising, then, to discover that this central "idea" is nothing more than a backdrop; that while plot and characters are certainly shaped by the imagined circumstances, the actual concern of the book is not the situation but the people within it. As a result, rather than reading as a description of an alternate reality, we are treated to a full experience of lives in a world that differs profoundly from our own. As a result, this novel is more than just science fiction. It succeeds in transcending the genre ghetto and meriting consideration among the best of modern writing.
Examples of how carefully, and how well, this book was thought out are too numerous to list, but one example: the titular "Man" is an American maverick writer of an alternative history in which America and its allies prevail in World War II. How simple, how convenient it would have been to have this alternative-history-within-an-alternative-history perfectly reflect our own reality. But it isn't so; the imagined history is completely different. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this is a truly rewarding book.
on August 8, 2003
This is a superbly written exploration of what the world might have been like had Germany and Japan won the war. It's about how people survive when the ruling culture is not their own; how hope can be found between the covers of a book - how that same book can hold terror or fear for someone from a different persepective.
What made me love this book, really love it, is not so much the idea of this alternate history of the United States, but how real the characters were for me. Frank Frink, his ex-wife, Juliana, Robert Childen, everybody. They were people, or personalities if you like, that you could see being created by this situation.
I'd give this book to anyone to read and tell them to sit back and let it make them think. Run in the world Dick's created; imagine what it would be like. What would you be doing in this world? What would your family be doing? How would you survive in this world? It's a worthy book to spend your time on.
on April 29, 1999
I liked this book a lot. It was my first Dick book, and I had heard some good things about him. This definitely delivers. This book is different from alternate-WWII books, in that, it doesn't try to describe how different it is, but actually tries to discern the exact nature of alternate realities. It is very interesting, and though it concentrates on concepts, there are still the fundamental aspects of human nature, like Childan's tortured fickleness. I didn't like some parts. The prose style, with the short clipped phrases, tho7ugh conceptually brilliant (how the Japanese woould speak english), but still it got on my nerves. Also near the ending ( though brilliant) lost me a little bit. Speaking of the ending, again it's brilliant in that it shows the alternate reality starting to unravel. Reality unravels more and more, and Dick writes himself in the book as Hawthorne Abendsen.
Really good....I recommend it!
on August 5, 2003
This is among the best sci-fi I've read. Dick is great at avoiding the usual mannerisms of typical sci-fi authors and the academic sci-fi sect. The stylistically bare bones approach is effective in allowing the invertedness of the settings have their full effect (though I occasionally felt he rubbed it in a bit too much), which is good because plot-wise this book doesn't have a whole lot to offer- its scattered slightly interconnected situations offer more or less a snapshot of the world inhabiting the book, perhaps with some barbs pointed towards the "real" world and hit-or-miss parallels with life in general.
Although I prefer 'Flow My Tears...' to this, The Man in the High Castle is a brief and worthwhile read (although it's much touted status as a classic might lead to some disappointment).
on March 30, 2001
Dick's alternate history of a world where the Axis powers prevailed in World War II goes way beyond the macro level. He gets deep into his characters' lives. His characterizations of the young Japanese couple and the accomplished Mr. Tagomi have remained with me in the years since I originally read the book.
PKD is one of those rare authors who makes you feel that he is scratching the surface of deeper truths. Although it's true that the ending fails to deliver, rumor has it that Dick wrote the whole book using the I-Ching and lived with the ending it gave him. Don't worry, it's still well worth your reading. My friends and I felt compelled to spend the next few weeks at work contemplating the "Wu" and "Wabe" of everyday objects and composing haikus.
on February 7, 1999
There may be more exciting books using this idea -- the Allies losing WWII -- but I doubt you'll find one that's more atmospherically engrossing. The world that Dick creates is something else, especially the U.S. that's overrun with Japanese culture.
Reading this book, I also realized something else: nobody writes the mind of a schizophrenic better than Dick. The passage where Tagomi is going nuts was so real that I almost couldn't read it.
I still consider "Three Stigmatas of Palmer Eldritch" to be Dick's finest work, because it was so wonderfully whacked out, but I think "Man in the High Castle" is up there. It's more finely controlled than Palmer, and the landscape that Dick paints is worth looking at.
on February 5, 1998
Like many other PKD books, this is weird and in some ways, somewhat hard to follow. While I enjoyed reading it, similar to a view presented in someone else's review, I found it hard to empathize with the characters, and I felt some things, such as the German occupied portion of the United States, were not properly expanded upon.(Yeah, I know, run-on sentence) A worthwhile book, but when I finished it my first reaction was "Wait, what just happened? I'm confused." I'm more or less used to this from Dick's stories and novels, but this was a new spin on Dick-orientation(just made up word for PKD disorientation). My only recommendation is read the book, decide for yourself. Enjoy
on November 12, 2001
Loved the book, open ending and all -- though I believe the open ending is less open than generally thought. My major issue with it was the stereotyping required by it's ethnocentric theme. Americans really won the war they lost, the novel argues, because Americans are capable of creation, innovation, and change, while the Japanese and Germans are bound by lack of creativity and hate, respectively. Seems to me that this view was no major crime at the time the book was written, but, unlike most PKD, it is therefore a little dated.
on June 24, 2002
Plot: The Axis powers Germany and Japan divvy up America. An underground novel circulating amongst the masses tells of a
history in which the Allies won. And one persons search to meet the "author" of this underground novel.
The Man in the High Castle is a good story but as my title suggests it does have a open ending which leaves the readers saying "huh?". Don't let its impending ending sway you from reading this book. Read it and draw your own conclusions.
This book should be made into a film.