Tuesday, January 21, 2014

“The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick – Alternative Nightmares

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick - Front cover
Though we know beyond all doubt that the Allies were victorious during the Second World War, I believe there are only a few of us who can honestly admit to never having imagined what it would be like had the Axis won. Well, Philip K. Dick surely asked himself the same question, or at least that’s his novel, The Man in the High Castle, leads me to believe.

As you can guess, the book takes place in a reality alternate from ours, one where Nazi Germany and Japan have won World War II and have come to occupy the United States. The book itself, which by the way received a Hugo Award, follows four separate storylines which sometimes criss-cross and meet with each other. On the whole though, the book tries to show what kind of life we would have had to expect had we lost the war.

As you can surely expect, this story is rather devoid of any flashy action sequences and explosions. Rather, it focuses on delivering stories which are as realistic as possible within the world presented, ones where the exploration of ideas and conditions becomes the primary focus. I must warn you that the book is heavy in its themes and can be a bit complicated to read, even for veterans of literature; Dick has a very clever way with his words, meaning many phrases hold more meaning than initially assumed.

One thing that particularly enthralled me into this work is the amount of detail Dick put into everyday life in that universe. He describes what the average day would look like for regular citizens who have to suffer through this invasion, who would be discriminated against, who would be valued above others, etc…etc… Though I’m not going to spoil the book for you, I will say that on the whole, Dick seems to believe that for the most part, Americans would still be able to go about their lives with an acceptable degree of comfort and dignity, despite there being an occupation force.

All things considered, if you are a fan of science-fiction novels, alternative historical fiction, the author himself, and have wondered what it would be like if the Axis won, then I can do nothing but recommend you read The Man in the High Castle… some even call it the peak of Philip K. Dick’s works.


Philip K. Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982)

Philip K. Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982)


Philip Kindred Dick was a novelist, short story writer, essayist and author of American origin, who almost exclusively dealt with the science fiction genre. He is most famous for bringing gems such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (The movie Blade Runner was based on this) and A Scanner Darkly, based on which a movie was also made.

More of the Philip K. Dick's book reviews:
Ubik
A Scanner Darkly
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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