The Man in the High Castle – Philip K Dick.
I am finally reading Philip K Dick! Every time I watch Blade Runner or A Scanner Darkly I always turn to whoever and declare that I must read the books. I never do, but I found one of his to read and thought I’d give it a go for two reasons:
1) I love the premise, I am a huge history nerd, I’m fascinated by the events of WW2 and the rise of Hitler etc, it’s something I’m really interested in and this is an alternate reality where the allies didn’t win. I’ve always wondered what could have happened, though I’m very glad it didn’t and
2) I am secretly five years old and wanted the opportunity to say Dick in conversation.
Anyway, here’s a blurb courtesy of Goodreads:
It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war, and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.
So, this follows the lives of several groups of people living in the Japanese area of occupied America, there’s a Japanese business man, a Jew in hiding, a German spy, the afore mention Jew’s ex wife, and a shop keeper among others, who’s lives all inter mingle at various points in the novel as they try to get on with their lives in this bizarre world they’ve ended up in. All the while, there is political chaos after the death of one fuhrer and the attempted re election of another. There are some real life Nazi’s in the running for this role too which made the political tensions seem much more real to me and it was interesting to see what the people of sixties America thought of those individuals.
There’s also talk of a Nazi space programme (evidently Hitler wasn’t content with just running one world), a giant death camp in NYC, mass genocide of the African nations, a mysterious book called The Oracle that seems to predict the future and all sorts of post war cynicism.
The man in the high castle is himself a character, he’s the author of a novel about life if the allies had won which is banned in the Nazi controlled areas and which several of the other’s are reading. It was a nice touch of irony that had me smirking whenever it was mentioned, the author himself reminded me a lot of the Van Houten character from The Fault in Our Stars which was very strange but probably down to my slight obsession with that book.
Initially, I was a little disappointed with this, I wanted more focus on what post war Nazi occupation would be like rather than a character driven piece about people just living normal ish lives. Also, a bit of me thought that only eighteen years after the end of the war was a little too soon for the Nazi’s to be exploring Mars but then I guess the space race did happen in the sixties and Dick;s forte is science fiction so I’ll let that slide now that I’ve thought on it a bit. I did find myself getting really drawn into this, I’m told a lot of people find the writing style a bit chaotic but on the whole I really enjoyed it and I plan to read more of his books in the future.
The subject matter was utterly fascinating. I say this a lot, but I am a HUGE history nerd, seriously, I went all the way to Poland because I wanted to learn more about the second world war. I’ve only ever read novels about evacuees before and Slaughter House Five, so I’d love to read more of this kind of fiction. Any suggestions of where to start?
All in all, I really enjoyed this and I think it’s perfect for fellow history/ dystopia fans.