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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

by Philip K. Dick

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,270151490 (3.77)2 / 273
Recently added byJBD1, INorris, private library, amackea, drewsof, HiroProtagonist, darnia, JackMello
Legacy LibrariesTerence Kemp McKenna, Leslie Scalapino
  1. 61
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both are alternate histories set in a USA changed by World War Two.
  2. 51
    Fatherland by Robert Harris (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Alternate history
  3. 53
    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (ateolf)
  4. 20
    The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Two very different approaches to using an oracle, one the Tarot, another the I Ching, to help structure a book's narrative.
  5. 53
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Alternate history
  6. 10
    Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Alt history
  7. 00
    SS-GB by Len Deighton (Michael.Rimmer)
    Michael.Rimmer: Alternate History: Axis powers won WWII
  8. 00
    The lost continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Sylak)
    Sylak: Alternate history following WWI
  9. 11
    China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh (ahstrick)
  10. 01
    The iron dream by Norman Spinrad (andyl)
    andyl: Alternate history novel that also uses the book within a book device.

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English (139)  French (4)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Slovak (1)  Finnish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
I tend to run hot and cold when it comes to alternate history stories. Some are brilliant and really make you think about "what might have been." ("The Lucky Strike" by Kim Stanley Robinson comes to mind). Others seem to turn the alternate version of our world into just another fantasy world. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, it just seems kind of pointless to me.

Having said all that, leave it to Philip K. Dick to take the entire concept and turn it on its head. The "twist" in the world of The Man in the High Castle is that the Axis won the Second World War. The United States has been split into pieces, with puppet governments on the coasts run by Japan and Germany and a quasi-independent buffer zone in the middle.

Which is a neat enough idea, but what Dick does is tell several stories tied together by a common factor - another alternate history novel. In that world, a novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a best seller, banned in Nazi controlled areas, naturally (the Japanese take a more hands off approach). It tells a story of a wild alternate history in which the Allies win the war. It's a brilliant device, allowing Dick's characters to talk about their world and (sort of) ours without turning into huge info dumps.

There are a couple of other things I think Dick was getting at with this novel-within-a-novel. Or at least a couple of things I got out of it.

One was that, while The Grasshopper Lies Heavy gets the big question right (the Allies win rather than the Axis), the details, compared to the real history, are pretty far off. To me, that's Dick's way of saying that alternate history stories - or any speculative fiction, really - shouldn't be seen as predictive. There's simply no way to get it right enough to make the exercise worth it. It's also a cool way to insulate Dick from the inevitable second guessers who would argue that the world he portrays wouldn't have been how the world would really look if the Axis won the war. He essentially concedes the point.

That leads to the other thing I got out of the novel-within-a-novel device. Near the end of The Man in the High Castle, one of the characters gets to have a meeting with the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Along the way, she realizes that the novel isn't really about the "other" world, but about there own. That seems like a meta commentary on speculative fiction which, at the end of the day, works best when it says something about how we live in the real world.

Having said that, the revelation the character has is probably not the one I read into it. I won't ruin the ending, but suffice to say it does call into question a lot of what came before. I'm not really sure it works, but I'm open to being convinced. Hell, even Dick blames the I Ching (a major recurring theme in the book) for the ending. Who am I to argue with thousands of years of Chinese woo?

www.jdbyrne.net ( )
1 vote RaelWV | Aug 16, 2015 |
The amazing book of alternate history that makes references to the I-CHING because it was created using the I-CHING.

It's one of Dick's better novels, where we see several remotely related characters as they fumble through a difficult existance while seeking the ancient wisdom from a book.

Hi intrigue, politics, racisms, economics, and a forbidden book of alternate history. A must Read ( )
  gedece | Jul 27, 2015 |
This was a fascinating look at what life in the U.S. may have turned out to be if Germany and Japan had won WWII and split up the country. In the background of the story (until the end) is a book that is banned in the German part of the country called "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" which is an alternative history of what life in the U.S. would be like if the Allies had won.

In the Japanese part of the country there is a reliance on the prophecies of the I Ching which I found fascinating. I couldn't help but feel a chill up my back when the names of the German leaders were given, characters of evil and devastation during the war. Martin Borman was the leader until his death which threw the German empire into disarray and the Japanese empire was poised to either fill a void or fend off an attack. The entire continent of Africa has been destroyed, a total genocide. In the middle of this is an American, Frank Frink, who tries to start a new life as a jewelry designer, bucking the tide of mass produced crap. His wife, Juliana Frink, teams up with (who she thought was) an Italian to try and meet the author of the Grasshopper book supposedly ensconced in a secure location known as the High Castle. Mr. Childan owns an antique store catering to Japanese interested in collecting relics of the conquered country. He is devastated to learn that items he had sold as authentic were in actuality mass reproduced replicas.

Intrigue and danger follow the characters as they wend their way through the hazardous waters of an occupied territory. ( )
  mamzel | Jul 25, 2015 |
I read this so long ago! I think I was in my 20's. It was very difficult for me to understand. Alternate histories? Nazi's won WWII? What? I may have to read it again. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
Though I tagged this science fiction, it is not really - rather a kind of literary conceit, presenting an "alternate present" that includes another, opposing, "alternate present" in the form of a book written by the eponymous Man in the High Castle (who really lives in a fairly ordinary house in Wyoming). It took me a while to adjust my brain to this "real world" where the outcome of World War II was victory for the Nazis and Japan, where Hitler is still alive (though demented). The east coast of the US is part of the Reich, the west coast governed by Japan (referred to as the Home Islands). Africa is a wasteland, its population wiped out; the Mediterranean has been drained to become farmland. Rocket transport from Berlin Tempelhof to San Francisco takes 45 minutes, though on the ground in cities, people tend to rely on "pedecabs" with their "Chink" drivers to get from place. The I Ching has become the people's bible, many relying on its oracle to make decisions. Most of the characters are avidly reading the subversive book The Grasshopper lies Heavy, banned in the Reich, which describes a post-war world where Britain and the Allies defeated the Nazis and the world was overtaken by Communism. How ironic, in 2015, to read:

...And those markets, the countless millions of China, set the factories in Detroit and Chicago to humming; that vast mouth could never be filled, those people could not in a hundred years be given enough trucks or bricks or steel ingots or clothng or typeweriters or canned peas or clocks or radios or nosedrops. The American workman, by 1960, had the highest standard of living in the world, and all due to what they genteelly called "the most favoured nation" clause in every commercial transaction with the East. The US no longer occupied Japan, and she had never occupied China; and yet the fact could not be disputed: Canton and Tokyo and Shanghai did not buy from the British; they bought American. And with each sale, the working man in Baltimore or Los Angeles or Atlanta saw a little more prosperity.// It seemed to the planners, the men of vision in the White House, that they had almost achieved thrir goal. The exploring rocket ships would soon nose cautiously out into the void from a world that had at last seen an end to its age-old griefs: hunger, plague, war, ignorance. In the British Empire, equal measures toward social and ecomonic progress had brought similar relief to the masses in India, Burma, Africa, the Middle East. The factories of the Ruhr, Manchester, of the Saar, the oil of Baku, all flowed and interacted in intricate but effective harmony, the populations of Europe basked in what appeared....
There are so many alternate presents, and I think the one we are living is far stranger than any writer could have imagined. ( )
  overthemoon | Jul 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
Dick is entertaining us about reality and madness, time and death, sin and salvation.... We have our own homegrown Borges.
added by GYKM | editNew Republic, Ursula K. LeGuin
Philip K. Dick's best books always describe a future that is both entirely recognizable and utterly unimaginable.
added by GYKM | editThe New York Times Book Review
Philip K. Dick... has chosen to handle... material too nutty to accept, too admonitory to forget, too haunting to abandon.
added by GYKM | editWashington Post

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip K. Dickprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, EricIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gambino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Glasserman, DebbieDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleeson, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nati, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
North, HeidiCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weiner, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my wife, Anne, without whose silence
this book would never have been written
To my wife Tessa and my son Christopher,
with great and awful love
First words
For a week Mr. R. Childan had been anxiously watching the mail.
They know a million tricks, those novelists...Appeals to the base lusts that hide in everyone no matter how respectable on the surface. Yes, the novelist knows humanity how worthless they are, ruled by their testicles, swayed by cowardice, selling out every cause because of their greed...all he's got to do is thump on the drum, and there's the response. And he laughing of course, behind his hand at the effect he gets. (p. 128)
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Haiku summary
Alternate history
given alternate history;
what's true? What isn't?

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679740678, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:53 -0400)

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After the defeat of the Allies during World War II, the United States is divided up and ruled by the Axis powers.

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