Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by Becky
Dick, Philip K. 1962. The Man in the High Castle. 272 pages.
For a week Mr. R. Childan had been anxiously watching the mail.
What can I say about this one? Really. An alternative reality is created, a reality in which the Axis powers won World War II. The United States? Not so united. They've been divided--some being more occupied than others--between Germany and Japan. Life isn't all bad--well, unless you happen to be Jewish or black. For this reason, it is better to be on the Japanese side of the border. (Don't even ask what the Germans did to Africa.) This nightmarish reality is all too real for the handful of characters the reader meets. (Yes, a few of the characters are Jewish.)
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. This book is all about choices--ethical and moral questions that these characters have to answer. It isn't easy to be the person you want to be, should be. Life is too complex to be simplified into wrong and right...or so it appears. Some decisions change your life forever. Some change who you are. Some hasten the inevitable...death itself. How much of yourself would you be willing to sacrifice to be "safe" in this nightmare-of-a-world?
One of the fascinating aspects of this one is how the novel revolves around a book or two. Specifically, the novel revolves around another novel and its author. A science-fiction novel that in itself is an alternate reality. A novel imagining what life would be like if the Allies had won the war. This novel is by Hawthorne Abendsen. It's called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. And this novel weaves its way into the stories of the many characters and narrators. As you can imagine, this novel isn't all that popular with the powers-that-be. It's outlawed on the German-occupied side of the country. But that doesn't stop people from reading it. Giving this novel power. If anything, it makes it all that more popular.
This one is definitely interesting! It's a bit more philosophical and ideas-oriented than action-packed. But I enjoyed reading it.
Plot summary (from the publisher?)
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.
This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake.