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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
8,313203374 (3.74)2 / 374
  1. 71
    Fatherland by Robert Harris (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Alternate history
  2. 61
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Both are alternate histories set in a USA changed by World War Two.
  3. 62
    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (ateolf)
  4. 63
    The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Alternate history
  5. 20
    Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore (ecleirs24)
    ecleirs24: Alt history
  6. 10
    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.
  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 (189)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  Slovak (1)  Hungarian (1)  Finnish (1)  All (203)
Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
As a reader who is not an aficionado of speculative fiction or alternative historical fiction, this novel left me rather perplexed. Having read Robert Harris’ “Fatherland” a number of years ago (and having enjoyed it) and spurred by the popularity of the Amazon TV series inspired by Dick’s novel, I dove in.

Set in an alternate post-WWII America that has been divided by the victorious Japanese and Nazis, the narrative focuses on five or six characters whose stories never quite coalesce; the fragmented narrative structure in itself is not necessarily a flaw (plenty of good novels feature fragmented narratives), but in Dick’s novel, it definitely creates a lack of coherence that ultimately enervates the novel. More than half the book is devoted to exposition, but the payoff—which doesn’t really emerge until the final three chapters or so, once again in very fragmented fashion—feels uncertain and anticlimactic. Complicating matters is a novel within the novel, an alternate history that presumes the Allies had won the war but is itself different from the actual historical record (e.g., FDR did not serve four terms as President). Excerpts from this novel, called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,” along with the “I Ching,” which every character seems to consult for guidance, appear throughout the story, yet again these elements fail to add any sort of coherence to the narrative.

Perhaps my lack of expertise in this genre handicaps my appreciation of this novel (which did, after all, win the Hugo Award), but I was, in the end, disappointed. ( )
1 vote jimrgill | Jan 14, 2017 |
I read this 1962 book now because avaland and I had started watching the Amazon TV series based on it. As it happens, we haven't gone beyond episode 1. My paperback version, published by Popular Library, has a copyright page that only mentions the Putnam hardcover, and I'm not sure when I bought it, but probably in 1963. Of course, here in early 2017 the book is timely.

The 1963 winner of the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel, High Castle is an alternate history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933, Germany developed nuclear weapons, and the Axis powers won World War II. The USA has been divided, with the East occupied by the Germans, the Pacific states a separate country dominated by the Japanese, and the Rocky Mountain states left alone. The Japanese rule the Pacific; the Germans are reconstructing Europe, Asia and Africa, connecting the world with suborbital passenger rockets, and launching manned expeditions to Mars. In this 1962, Hitler's successor Martin Bormann has just died, opening a leadership contest between Göring, Heydrich, and Goebbels.

These great events serve as the backdrop for the personal stories of Dick's ordinary-person characters, none of whom are the genius/hero/explorer figures so common in SF. In San Francisco, Robert Childan sells American antiquities to discerning Japanese customers, whose sophisticated taste and social poise he yearns, futilely, to match. His valued customer, Mr. Tagomi, leads a trade mission from Japan, and will become involved in intrigue between agents of Japan, and of an element in Germany. Also in San Francisco, Frank Frink struggles to support himself as a machinist; he will try his hand at making jewelry. In Colorado, Frank's estranged wife Juliana, haunted by her traumatic experiences during the Japanese occupation, meets an intriguing man from the USA, a former Italian soldier. And not far from Juliana, the man in the Castle of the title, author Hawthorne Abendsen, has published a novel. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is set in a world where America and Britain won the war - not our world, because Abendsen did not think that Roosevelt might serve more than two terms as President. Not surprisingly, Abendsen's book is banned everywhere outside Japan's relatively easygoing sway.

What could be more horrible than that history's worst regime might have conquered Earth and the planets, free to proceed with its plans? The dramatic possibilities of the triumph of Naziism and facism have had people writing Hitler-wins stories from the 1930s on. The motif is common enough to have its own entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; the fine alternate-history writer [[Howard Waldrop]] has discussed it in a series of posts beginning here.

The horror is there in High Castle. Frank thinks about the Germans: "And then he thought about Africa, and the Nazi experiment there. And his blood stopped in his veins, hesitated, at last went on. That huge empty ruin. (...) Africa. For the ghosts of dead tribes. Wiped out to make a land of--what? Who knew? Maybe even the master architects in Berlin did not know. (...) It horrified him, this thought: the ancient gigantic cannibal near-man flourishing now, ruling the world once more. We spent a million years escaping him, Frink thought, and now he's back." As gentle, proper Mr. Tagomi hears a confidential briefing on the characters of the contenders for Reichs Chancellor, he becomes ill. He thinks, "There is evil! It's actual, like cement. (...) It's an ingredient in us. In the world. Poured over us, filtering into our bodies, minds, hearts, into the pavement itself. (...) I perceived this...now I don't know where to go. Screech with fear, only. Run away."

But this is a book by Philip K. Dick, and it expresses his core concern with simulacra, with the real and unreal and whether we can tell the difference. His people must choose between real and fake American historical artifacts, between hand made and mass-produced jewelry. Juliana must distinguish between herself in expensive clothing and her everyday self. Frank must distinguish between his adopted surname, Frink and his real name, Fink - Jewish and thus a death sentence outside the Japanese sphere. Distinctions: between secret agents and their cover stories, and between the several histories. Between the worlds of Castle, of Grasshopper, and our own, which is real? Deep distrust in what we can know is the essence of all of Dick's greatest stories, and it is here, too.

Dick was also interested in the duality expressed in the Tao. He used the [I Ching] to decide plot points while writing the book, and the principal characters consult the I Ching to make decisions. The plot ends in ambiguity. We learn that the Nazis are planning a nuclear strike on Japan's Home Islands, so they can rule unhindered, but perhaps other factors will prevent this. Perhaps there is hope. The characters go off to fates we will not learn.

Dick was always good at writing minds at the ends of their tethers, and Juliana has a psychotic break that feels powerfully real. As usual with Dick's stories, the written story is much less violent than the TV series based on it.

I'm not showing a cover image for this review. My old paperback has a prominent swastika in the cover design. That was more acceptible in 1963, apparently. [The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich] by [[William L. Shirer]] has such a feature, and was made a bestseller by the very Americans who had fought Hitler. In more recent years, a deference to Hitler's victims has raised the bar for proper display of the symbol.

More recently still, the American people have elected a president who has allies who openly display the symbol and admire Hitler. The American adults of 1962 would have been disgusted, as the majority are today, I think. But Mr. Tagomi, and Frank and Juliana Frink, would not have been surprised. ( )
2 vote dukedom_enough | Jan 9, 2017 |
I really did not like this book. I loved Ubik, also by PKD, but this was just terrible. I was so disappointed. I haven't the faintest idea how they got enough material from this to make a TV series. ( )
  beckyrenner | Dec 29, 2016 |
Dick creates an interesting premise and a collection of interesting characters, but, spoiler alert, nothing happens. The characters wander onto the stage, mumble incoherently about the I Ching, and then wander off. I plowed through the religious blather because I thought that, at some point, something interesting would happen. And then, nothing did. If you want a meditation on the I Ching, I suspect there are better places to look, although I wouldn't know, because I don't want one. If you want a story that explores the nature of humanity and the fickle finger of history, I strongly recommend Michael Chabon or Robert Harris. ( )
  rkstafford | Dec 19, 2016 |
The Allies lost World War 2. As a consequence, the Axis powers have occupied portions of the USA: NAZI Germany has the east coast, and Japan has the west coast. Between these two occupied territories exists the still independent Rocky Mountains States. A state of Cold War exists between the two imperial powers. The Germans control access to their technology and spy on the Japanese. But the German leader is dead and a nasty leadership transition is underway.

A man living in the Rocky Mountains has written an alternative history in which the Allies won the war. This book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, has been banned in the German territories, but is a topic of discussion in many places including the occupied German lands.

The main theme of the book appears to be that nothing is at it seems. This includes the undercover German Baynes, the various German representatives in San Francisco, the Japanese general travelling incognito, Juliana's boyfriend, even the man in the high castle himself and his book. The other recurring theme is the I Ching, or Book of Changes, which suggests that events are not arrived at by chance.

As usual, Dick has painted a story that has many layers of meaning. The message is as relevant today as it was when the book was written over 50 years ago. I give the book 4 stars. ( )
1 vote Bruce_McNair | Dec 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 189 (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 editionscalculated
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)
At six-fifteen in the evening she finished the book. I wonder if Joe got to the end of it? she wondered. There's so much more in it than he understood. What is it Abendsen wanted to say? Nothing about his make-believe world. Am I the only one who knows? I'll bet I am; nobody else really understands 'Grasshopper' but me - they just imagine they do.
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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)

(see all 9 descriptions)

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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