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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
7,364154477 (3.78)2 / 283
  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 (142)  French (4)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Slovak (1)  Finnish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
I came here to slam this book for being immature and pointless, and to join the chorus singing "the end sucks". But there is an unsettling aspect, which is the story of Mr Tagomi, ending with his disturbing vision following his encounter with Frank's piece of jewellery. That section confused but fascinated me - and now thanks to this* review, I think I understand. The novel is challenging our pre-conceptions of evil and universal progress in history. Mr Tagomi's vision and the uninspiring encounter with Abendson at the end emphasises.. well, it emphasises something about the nature of choice and despair and the relationship between your internal struggles and happiness and the situation of the world around you.

I'm not sure.

In any case that's the point - on first pass it's a dull and confusing book - half immature alternate history exposition, half I Ching deliberation and introversion. But with further thought it becomes more interesting.

PS: Pity, as usual for books of the era, with the portrayal of female characters. Juliana is not all housewife, as her prowess with a razor blade demonstrates, but the fact that bra-purchasing is an actual plot point in the story is a joke. Please.

* - http://2010philipkdickfans.philipkdickfans.com/articles/TMitHC.htm
  seabear | Nov 28, 2015 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 1989.

A wonderful, intriguing, and at times enigmatic novel. Dick, as usual, exhibits his remarkable powers of characterization. Here he largely uses the technique of entering into a character's thoughts. Often we go along rather like a character until we come across a jarring, despicable thought. The portrayal of antique dealer Robert Childan. We like him just fine until we find out he approves of genocide against the Jews. Even Reinhard Heydrich has his good side in working against attacking the Japanese. Julianna Fink is one of Dick's rather neurotic women who must almost obsessively flit from man to man (her husband has some unkind things to say about women's "babyish" nature and extreme craving for attention -- perhaps Dick's unhappy experience with women is reflected here).

As usual, there are one or too entirely good major characters, and here, as often in Dick's work, one is a craftsmen, Frank Fink. The other is Mr. Tagomi.

One of the major strengths of this novel was showing the many facets of the relationship between conquerors and the conquered: Dick portrays the admiration, revulsion, and mystification suffered under the yoke of the Japanese and Germany. Dick provides succinct and true portrayals -- usually uncomplimentary -- of Japanese and German (again an unflattering reference to Germany) national character.

As usual there is suspense aided by Dick's usual plethora of fakes, counterfeits, illusions, and simulacra. Here Dick uses these elements for wit and philosophy. (I liked W. M. Mason complaining about his mistress' babbling about The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and other bits of the usual Dickian black humor.) Dick questions, in his fake historical artifacts, the principle of historicity which ironically plays off the fake history of Hawthorne Abendsen's alternate history, and the book a also shows the power and hold an alternate history can hold over the mind.

I also liked the portrayal of the Nazi commando who can't seem to comprehend why Julianna Fink fights him or his own imminent death. As Dick says about Germans, they have trouble with actuality. (Juliianna's behavior then is never explained: madness or drug intoxication?) The book has a light, airy, fascinating air about it like the silver triangle Mr. Tagomi contemplates. (Mr. Tagomi's peculiar, sometimes stilted dialogue may be a sometimes amusing attempt at non-native English and/or the result of what seems to be, at times, bad proofreading.). The philosophy of the Tao and the I Ching hover over all the book and inform its reading. The characters contemplate fate, destiny, faith, and how to deal with evil (and , in the poignant case of Mr. Baynes and Tagomi, choose between evils).

Like most of Dick's novels I've read, things seem to end in midstream, mid-air. The "big" question here is if another world war can be averted. But the real story is how the characters, like all people, will cope with their world and each finds the Way. I can't, on one reading, completely appreciate their discoveries. Dick's novel is subtle. As an alternate world, the novel works quite well.

Dick actually creates two interesting alternate histories. It was quite interesting to see the fate Dick postulated for various Nazis -- some I hadn't heard of until I read Dick's reference work: William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The final touch, our world's existence enigmatically hinted at in Tagomi's vision and, possibly, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, was rather disturbing and comforting. As in The Penultimate Truth, the nuclear doom spirit of the sixties looms over the novel but fails to crush the characters spirit. They endure and grow. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Nov 22, 2015 |
Wanted to make sure I got a chance to read this one before the Amazon adaptation launches, and I'm glad I did. Dick has spun an eerie alternate history in which Germany and Japan beat the Allies in WWII, but he doles out the details of how his world works in dribs and drabs, giving the reader only just what's needed. Of course there's a lot more going on behind the scenes, which i won't get into here ... read it for yourself. ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 26, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (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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