The Man in the High Castle

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Hardcover, US first edition.

The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history religious fiction novel by Philip K. Dick published in October 1962. In 2015, the novel was also made into a TV series. The book is often categorized as science fiction, possibly because Dick is a prominent sci-fi author, but it has very few elements of science fiction; there is even a meta scene in the book where characters indirectly describe it as not being science fiction. Dick said he was inspired to write the book after reading Bring the Jubilee, which has a similar premise.

The story is set in a world where the Axis Powers won World War II. Years later, in 1962, what was once the United States has been carved up by Japan and Germany, similar to how the Allied Powers divided Europe. The Germans have re-legalized slavery, executed all the Jews, wiped out nearly all life in Africa, and the other ethic groups they hated, and made life hell for most other people. However, though allied during the war, Japan and Germany have entered their own cold war in much the same way as the USA and Russia. The book follows several former Americans and a few Japanese businessmen as they try to make sense of their new world.

Personal

Own?No
Read?Audiobook read by George Guidall.
Finished2022-08-23.

Having enjoyed Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, I wanted to expand my knowledge of his work. I had read that this was his second most popular novel, and I knew of the concept, but I put it off for a long time. Eventually I decided to start reading it. I was pleased that it wasn't as heavy as novels about WWII usually are, however, upon finishing it on , I wasn't that impressed with it.

Review

Overall:

Rating-5.svg

Good

  • Speculating on how the Axis, had they won the war, would have divvied up the world is an interesting concept. It's a similar opposite of what happened with the Allies, and they even begin a cold war of their own.
  • Seeing the Axis's propaganda campaigns effectively convince Americans their loss was destined seems very believable.
  • The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the novel-within-the-novel which describes an alternative history where the Allies defeated the Axis, was an enjoyable and creative idea.
  • I like how, despite being successful with their genocide and believing they're the master race, Germany finds themselves nearing economic collapse after wiping out most of population in their occupied areas. Turns out those "undesirables" were actually what was keeping the world running after all.
  • Having the Japanese take to loving retro Americana is a clever idea, and the scene were a man is presented with a Mickey Mouse watch as a serious gift is quite funny.
  • The scene where Joe threatens to kill Julia gets very tense!
  • The scene where Mr. Tagumi briefly finds himself in the alternate history where the Allies won was an interesting scene.
  • I'm okay with the fact that, considering the setting, none of the characters have a very happy ending.
  • George Guidall's audiobook recording is fantastic. He uses a different voice for each character, clearly differentiates male and female speakers, and has good German, Japanese, Italian, and American accents.

Bad

  • The novel has a pretty slow beginning to the point where I almost gave up reading it.
  • It seems unlikely that Americans would adopt lots of Eastern mannerisms so quickly after being occupied. All their ways of speaking, traditions, divination, etc. This would make sense from the children who grew up under Japanese rule, but not so much for the adults who would already be set in their ways.
  • There isn't very much physical description of the main characters, so I have a had a hard time picturing them in my head.
  • Although it starts tense, the way Julia deals with Joe is rather slow and all the tension peters out.
  • I don't feel like Frank Frink's story really means much in the book at all. If it didn't exist, I don't think the story would miss much.
  • The alternate history doesn't really work. In actuality, even if the USA hadn't entered the war, the Allies most likely still would have defeated Germany, so, in the alternate history where the USA doesn't, the Germans probably still would have lost.

Ugly

  • The scenes where the Japanese men are contemplating the Wu of the jewelry near the end of the book go on and on and really slow down the narrative.
  • All the I Ching nonsense hurts the book. First, I Ching is primarily practiced by the Chinese not the Japanese. Also, I get that people are often enamored by juvenile divination, but there so much of it all through the book, and, in the end, you discover that the Grasshopper Lies Heavy was written almost entirely by the I Ching, which I found very disappointing. Having to drudge through all of these scenes makes me categorize the novel as religious fiction.

Media

Covers

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