The Man in the High Castle • 1962 • SF novel by Philip K. Dick


Meta: isfdb. SF Master works #73. SF novel of Philip K. Dick published in 1962. It won the 1963 Hugo award.

The Axis Powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan) won WWII – Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933, Germany developed the atomic bomb and conquered Europe, Japan drove US from the Pacific. 15 years after the war (ending in 1947), the two superpowers Germany and Japan intrigue against each other in the divided former U.S. The story takes place mainly in Japanese controlled San Francisco and in parts in the “Rocky Mountain States” east of the Rockys.

The daily life under Fascism is described from different POVs – a Jew starting a jewellry business with his friend, his ex-wife is an Judo trainer, an Americana antique seller trying to get business contacts in Japanese society, a Japanese trade missioner and a German Counter-intelligence agent getting in contact with a Japanese general.

Typical for PKD is the story within the story – here to be found in the popular novel “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” where an alternative history is described around the Allies having won WWII.

It took a long time for me to get ready for this novel: I’m always shivering with all the Nazi-stuff – extended Holocaust to Africa and so on. I’ve been visiting the memorial site of the Dachau concentration camp and Auschwitz extermination camp. We went through WWII and the Holocaust a couple of times in history lessons and it was a huge topic during school. No wonder that I refrained from reading this alternate history directly after school. But now, 25 years after that and shortly after reading Ubik, I wanted to read this masterwork.

And I have to say that I’m enjoyed it greatly. Of course, I know the characteristics of the involved German Reich persons. But PKD did a great job of altering and adapting their history.
I didn’t know about the SF-esc project of “Atlantropa”, an enourmous “terraforming” project of the Mediterranean sea which would have zero chance nowadays. But under this alternate circumstance… who knows what Venice people would have said 🙂

I find it to be written very fluently and engaging, the protagonists touched me. It was a fast read for me.

I especially liked the thought provoking discussions of racism and fascism influencing culture where the Americans think they are cultural inferior. And the literary device in the form of the I-Ching where everyone asks this oracle and the oracle influencing the reality.

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