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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
The Man in the High Castle is Dick's masterpiece. Along with VALIS and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it completes the trilogy of the author's essential works. A must read for Dickheads or for anyone who considers himself a serious fan of science fiction. Dick was clearly influenced by two earlier works of alternative history, Sarban's The Sound of His Horn and C. M. Kornbluth's "Two Dooms". In turn, The Man in the High Castle has influenced any number of later works, not just Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream and the novels of Harry Turtledove, but Ursula LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven as well. This is a very complex, suspenseful novel, consisting of four main plot lines and a host of characters whose lives sometimes interact. Don't expect any slam-bang pyrotechnic action here, despite the novel's provocative premise. It's more a slice of life tale, showing that even after a catastrophic defeat, life in America would go on. Dick is very good at detailing the nuances of life in Axis-ruled America. For example, at one point as an aside, it is pointed out that after the Nazi pograms, the only surviving prewar comedian is Bob Hope, and even he has to broadcast out of Canada. Also, an unintended irony for a novel written in 1962 is Dick's conjecture that if the United States had lost WWII, we would all be listening to Japanese audio equipment and driving German cars now. The author achieves the near impossible feat of actually being even-handed towards the Nazis without glamorizing them. He describes them at one point as Neanderthals in white lab coats, technological geniuses who have drained the Mediterranean and are conquering the Solar System, yet are morally bankrupt.Read more ›
Alternate history...Philip K. Dick style. What does that mean? Well, basically, if you think that the characters in this book seem a little out of place, keep reading, and you may find YOURSELF out of place. On the surface, it is the usual time-shifting novel...FDR was assasinated in 1936, and as a result, the United States lost WW II. Twenty years in the future, when the novel takes place, Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire have occupied the United States and imposed their brand of culture on their respective halves of the American populace. But this book really isn't about alternate time lines...its about alternate realities. Things are not as they seem...characters' true identities are hidden, and their moralities are tested. It's about the nature of the true state of the universe, Eastern religion, and the I-Ching. When Philip K. Dick is at his best, his characters question their own existence, and it soon follows that the readers do the same. So when you come to the end of the book, hopefully, a number of things will happen: Number 1: You'll instantly re-read the ending. Number 2: You'll throw the book against the wall and exclaim "that's it?" Number 3: You'll probably re-read the ending again. Number 4: You'll swear that you'll never read another Philip K. Dick novel. Number 5: Later, you'll think a bit about the book, and realize that the novel wasn't really about what you thought it was. Number 6: You'll read it again. And again... This isn't your typical sci-fi novel. The story doesn't wrap-up into a neat little package. Like Eastern religions, time is not linear, it is circular, and that is the reality of the book. Alternate histories are so commonplace in sci-fi today, that it is important to look at this book as the one that really started it all. A completely original masterpiece...even the followers can't keep up.
Philip K. Dick's masterpiece is one of the classics of the alternative history genre. This was my first Philip K.Dick novel and it's so good that I want to light up a Land-o-Smiles and read everything he's ever written. The characters seem like real people. The story is told through interleaved overlapping stories that revolve around the Nazi and Japanese domination of America after America and the British lost WWII in 1947. It's 1962 and the United States has been divided between the Nazis in the East and the Japanese in the West. America has become a third world country controlled and exploited by the victors. The Japanese are better masters than the Germans. The Germans have turned their part of the world into a living nightmare and are plotting to start a war with the Japanese. The Japanese are quiet and philosophical. The scenes of life in Japanese dominated San Francisco are oddly familiar. Dick has transposed the usual circumstance a visiting American finds in third world countries friendly to the United States: Wealthy foreigners living in exclusive enclaves, fawning local businessmen eager to get the foreign visitor's business, local police dominated and loosely controlled by the foreigners. The I Ching is central to the story, guiding the action of many of the protagonists. In all an imaginative take on what life could have been like, uniquely flavored by the influence of Eastern Philosophy.
OK, first let's get one thing out of the way - this is a great book, and it's absolutely irrelevant if you label it "science fiction," "alternative history," or whatever. Except for the purposes of book marketing, who cares anyway? The bottom line is that Philip K. Dick was too complex and intelligent a man for his work to be pinned down into any one genre. And who would want it to be?!? On one level, or course, "The Man in the High Castle" is - at least on the surface and on the jacket cover - about an alternative time line in which America loses World War II (with the Nazis taking over East of the Mississippi, the Japanese West of the Rockies, and the middle being a kind of backwater/no-man's land). But what is this book really about? My conclusion after reading the book, as well as many of the reviews here and out there on the web, as well as some stuff about Philip K. Dick, as well as talking to a really smart friend of mine who has read the book many times, is that this book is about several main themes, and can be read on several different levels (as most great works of fiction can be). Thus, in my opinion "The Man in the High Castle" is about, among other things (in no particular order): 1) the lives of Americans under Japanese occupation; 2) the lives of the Japanese occupiers, and especially their interaction with various Americans - white, black, Jewish; 3) the Japanese-German relationship, and the difference in Japanese and German culture; 4) what is the nature of "reality"?; 5) what is "authentic" and what is "fake"?; 6) what constitutes a moral life?Read more ›
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