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The Man in the High Castle (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – May 1, 2010
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About the Author
Philip Kindred Dick was born in Chicago in 1928. His career as a science fiction writer comprised an early burst of short stories followed by a stream of novels, typically character studies incorporating androids, drugs, and hallucinations. His best works are generally agreed to be THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE and DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, the inspiration for the movie "Blade Runner". He died in 1982.
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This story was written in the 60s, and is set then as well. What if the Axis won World War II is the major premise behind the setting. The conflicts highlight the extreme to which Japanese and German cultures could have gone, and the possible effects of living in a land under the control of one, and strongly influenced by the other. Imagine the Japanese concept of place, mixing with facist bigotry, overlaid on oppressed Americans living in a totalitarian world. PKD thoroughly denounces facism, bigotry and xenophobia.
But the story is more than that. The plot is hidden from the reader as we see events from several points of view. And the narration ends with barely a paragraph of denouement. If you are not driven to contemplation about the meaning of life or the nature of reality by this work, you should read it again, slowly.
Each character has there own unique persona and unique motives for what they are really out to get. Every character is masterfully developed. PKD doesn't just focus on the character's PKD is able to fully capture you imagination and create a beautifully horrid reality inside your mind as you read.
This is one of the books that you will read reread and still be wondering about what truly happened or what the book was really about. One of the most complex and inciting books I have read and loved so deeply in a long time. Overall if you like alternative-history or books with complex backgrounds and amazing story's you should be sure to read this.
Amazingly good question: What happens to a country's visions when the visionaries (like Hitler) go away? Answer: Nothing, because there are no new visionaries to dream up new visions. Therefore, the book simply extends each country's pre-war vision into infinity.
In Hitler's time, Germany methodically conquered country after country. Now, they share the U.S. with Japan but continue the struggle to win Africa and Mars. The Japanese have filled-in the Mediterranean with top soil to get land for rice paddies. Hitler has died of old age but none of his deputies can make decisions. The Japanese can't either and take most questions to the I Ching. Yes, this is funny, but it's also thought provoking.
That said, TMitHC is a treasure. It distills a number of Dick's obsessions into a taut character study set against the backdrop of a world going even more mad. Each of the 6 'protagonists' here are searching for truth. Only a couple of them are capable of facing it dignity.
As with all of Dick's best work the world-building is efficient and brilliant. I re-read this recently to prepare myself for watching the new serial, and was reminded of just how good Dick's prose is. The casual racism of Mr. Childan, the inner strength of Juliana, the coldness of Joe Cinnadella. But, it is Mr. Tagomi who owns this novel. He is one of Dick's finest characters, at once pragmatic and idealistic. Mature and naive. The living embodiment of the Tao.
The ending matters both textually and thematically. It separates the characters into those who can face the reality of their world and those who cannot.
For those looking into PKD for the first time I highly recommend these books over all of the others (in my order of preference):
2) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
3) The Man in the High Castle
4) Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
5) The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
6) Clans of the Alphane Moon
7) A Scanner Darkly
8) Martian Time-Slip
9) Dr. Bloodmoney
10) The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
Others like Time Out of Joint, The Game-Players of Titan, Now Wait for Last Year, The Penultimate Truth and Galactic Pot Healer are fine diversions, but the books above are essential. VALIS is a difficult mess of a book. Timothy Archer is the only one of the 'trilogy' I actually enjoyed as a narrative.