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The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The Man in the High Castle (original 1962; edition 2012)

by Philip K. Dick

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8,395209369 (3.74)2 / 379
Title:The Man in the High Castle
Authors:Philip K. Dick
Info:Mariner Books (2012), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)

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    ecleirs24: Alternate history
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    ed.pendragon: Two very different approaches to using an oracle, one the Tarot, another the I Ching, to help structure a book's narrative.
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    Michael.Rimmer: Alternate History: Axis powers won WWII
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    andyl: Alternate history novel that also uses the book within a book device.

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English (195)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  Slovak (1)  Hungarian (1)  Finnish (1)  All (209)
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Fans of Philip K. Dick and science fiction might be underwhelmed by ‘The Man in the High Castle’ since, other than passing mention of cross- continent rocketship travel and German exploration of Mars, there really isn’t any science or signature PKD craziness or large-scale action; rather, Dick’s 1962 book is alternative history, the aftermath in the United States after Germany and Japan win World War II and a novel of ideas. There are a number of crisscrossing plots, colorful main characters, applications of the ancient Chinese I Ching; however, by my reading, the heartbeat of the novel is the author’s historical, political, social commentary, reflections on cross-cultural miscommunication and observations on racial and ethnic prejudice – all laced with a healthy dose of black humor.

Ah, black humor, as in this snatch of dialogue when judo instructor Juliana Frink talks with a fellow American, Joe the truck drive in a Colorado small-town: ““Did you hear the Bob Hope show the other night?” she called. “He told this really funny joke, the one where this German major is interviewing some Martians. The Martians can’t provide racial documentation about their grandparents being Aryan, you know. So the German major reports back to Berlin that Mars is populated by Jews.”” Meanwhile, the German Reichs Consul in San Francisco, Freiherr Hugo Reiss, doesn’t fine Bob Hope one bit funny; in point of fact, he thinks the Aryan super-race might indeed find Jews on Mars since those loathsome Jewish vermin are everywhere else.

PKD 1960s-style self-referential postmodern metafiction, anyone? Novel within a novel: ‘The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’ by Hawthorne Abendsen is about what the present day world would look like if Germany and Japan lost the war. Abendsen’s novel is all the rage, an honest-to-goodness American literary fad (the book is banned back in Germany and in lands such as the Eastern United States controlled by Germany). Curiously, rumors have it the author of the outrageous Grasshopper bestseller is a paranoid living in isolation on a Wyoming mountain in a fortress-like house surrounded by barbed wire and heavy artillery, calling himself ‘The Man in the High Castle’. Perhaps the author’s armed, isolated fortress isn’t such a bad idea since Freiherr Hugo Reiss has a predictable Nazi reaction when reading the book: “Maybe this Abendsen is a Jew. They’re still at it trying to poison us. . . . Actual name probably Abendstein. . . . If Abendstein should be found dangling from the ceiling some fine morning, it would be a sobering notice to anyone who might be influenced by this book. We would have had the last word. Written the postscript.”

And such a paranoid racist mindset is hardly confined to the German Nazis. Here are the thoughts of Robert Childan, a good old American boy from San Francisco, after his less than satisfying business dealings with someone who is Jewish: “We live in a society of law and order, where Jews can’t pull their subtleties on the innocent. We’re protected. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize the racial characteristics when I saw him. Evidently I’m easily deceived. . . . Without law, I’d be at their mercy. He could have convinced me of anything. It’s a form of hypnosis. They can control an entire society.”

With its scathing satire on culture and society and novel within a novel, in many ways ‘The Man in the High Castle’ reminded me more of ‘JR’ by William Gaddis than PKD’s other science fiction. Similar to Gaddis, all the men and women are more than happy to spout their opinions and observations about the arts and books and literature; and more than happy to make strident pronouncements about culture, history and race, not only on the Jews but, among others, Blacks, Italians, Japanese, Germans, Swedes, White Americans, Puerto Ricans, Irish. Turns out, the author of ‘The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’ claims his nightmarish novel is about the state of the world as it currently exists. Perhaps PKD is telling us indirectly he is making a similar claim in his ‘The Man in the High Castle.’
( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
The Man in the High Castle was written in 1962 and published in 1963. It might or might have not predated the Cuban Missile crisis. By now we know that in 1962 the world faced a bigger danger than thought at the time for a nuclear holocaust. What should the I Ching have said, had the US and and the USSR consulted the Chinese oracle? We will never know.
What we do know that Philip K. Dick must have been high around that time on whatever he was using around that time. It's the duality of being a genius and being at risk of mental illness. In many books Philip K. Dick balanced on that thin line. The results were - as always - astonishing. One of my most beloved Philip K. Dick books is Ubik, which knocks you off balance with its ending. And with a dime. The end must have been stolen by the movie Inception, but that aside.

The Man in the High Castle is the story of an alternate history where the Axis forces, especially Germany and Japan, have won the Second World War. For those who are sensitive to vulgar nicknames for Italians (wops) or Jews (kiks) or whatever minority came in the pitch black spotlights of the Nazi society, the book might be less than optimal for your peace of mind. For all others, it is a treat. In the end the book is not so much about a clever turning of tables on the Allies and the Axis forces, but about human nature. So you think we would be worse off? The Cuban Missile standoff has shown us that no matter if you're the good guy or the bad guy, the end might be the same for you both: Totaler und Radikaler, as Goebbels once screamed in one of his speeches, than you might have dreamed.

The book builds upon quite a cast of characters whose paths eventually all will cross in all kinds of remarkable ways. And leading some of them through the story is the I Ching, the Chinese oracle which holds such deep wisdom, even if you - quite correctly - are convinced predictions by oracles are funny, yet utter bunkum. The Man in the High Castle only appears in the closing pages of the book, together with .... well.... very, very minor spoiler alert - the bunkum oracle as well.

What does it tell us? The oracle dispenses its wisdom and gives a description of an alternative that turns out to be as weird and dismal as any other variety of reality. For humanity going left or right doesn't matter: they always find ways to make it the wrong turn. It might well be that Philip K. Dick was quite aware of the Cuban missile crisis after all.

What should we think of the book? What better way to find out than to consult the oracle itself. Over to the I Ching. Hexagram 35, Advancing (Jin), active lines 2 and 6 turning it to 40, Release (Jie):
You advance, but you are worried. The omen is auspicious. Now you receive armor and blessings from the mother of the king.
(Change wells up in his feelings. He is not in control here and it causes him distress. If he coordinates his feelings instead of controlling them this same change would cause him happiness.)
The ram avances with its horns. Hold firm in striking the city. Even in danger, the omen is auspicious. No harm, but an omen of misfortune.
(Accepting change at the foundation involves changing the superstructure. This is demanding and needs the approach of sympathy).
Over to hexagram 40, Release (Jie):
Release. Favorable in the southwest. Nowhere to go. Auspicious to return. In proceeding with a purpose, it is auspicious to be early. (A new way leads out of insecurity and vacillation. Release from indecision.)

Well, it's obviously about the change in history in the book. It's distressing, but when you deal correctly with the story and are armed against it, it turns out to be a positive experience. You must open yourself to the 'change at the foundation' , the alternate history. You have to accept and be positive about the story. Only this assures you that in the end the book will give you a new way to free yourself from doubt and make you decide what you think of the history and time we live in.

Well, isn't that great? The I Ching delivers. Yes, as I said, exactly. Funny, but bunkum nevertheless.
Let me be the oracle. Read that book. You won't be disappointed. ( )
  jeroenvandorp | Feb 12, 2017 |
In this first major novel by science fiction master Philip K. Dick, he establishes himself as one of the greatest writers of the genre in mid to late 20th century America. His literary genius was recognized by the presentation to him of the Hugo Award for "The Man in the High Castle". In this novel, as in his later works such as "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner") and "Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said", Dick reveals his characteristic blend of scientific fictional speculation, social commentary with a heavy serving of satire, attention to historical/sociological detail, and keen insight into psychology- especially the conditions of alienation, stress, trauma and identity crisis.

In "The Man in the High Castle", Dick imagines a nightmarish present based on history taking a radically bad turn in the early 1940's- leading to Axis victory in the Second World War. In the present day, 1962, of the novel, America is divided into four separate zones. The "United States" is a Nazi protectorate governed by a puppet regime that is controlled and policed directly by the Third Reich. It rules the Northeastern and Great Lakes regions of the former USA. The old Confederacy has been revived in the South and slavery for African Americans has been restored. Confederate slaveholders are allowed to take their human "property" with them to other Axis-controlled sections of America, where their property rights are respected and there are no sanctuaries for escaped property. The Pacific States of America, including the western sections of Nevada and Idaho, is a protectorate of the Japanese Empire with its territorial capital in San Francisco. The last part of America that is still governed by semi-independent Americans is the Rocky Mountain States which also includes the western area of the Great Plains. This is a neutral zone separating the Nazi and Japanese spheres of influence, where it is still possible for Americans to live in a precarious state of "liberty".

The title of the novel is based on one American living in this neutral zone, near Cheyenne, who has written a novel in which he imagines an alternative history and present- a timeline in which the Allies win the Second World War and the world is divided between the victorious United States and British Empire after the war. It is said that the author of the novel, which is a best-seller, even on the black markets of the Axis regions of America, where it is banned, served as a U.S. Marine fighting the Nazis in their invasion of Britain during the war, and is now a recluse living in a heavily fortified bunker on a Wyoming mountaintop overlooking Cheyenne and surrounded by an armed guard. Hence, he is the "Man in the High Castle".

Much of the novel deals with an American shop owner in San Francisco who deals in "genuine American arts and crafts" ranging from Mickey Mouse watches to Civil War firearms. Most of his clientele are ambitious, status-sensitive Japanese businessmen and bureaucrats who are very keen to add to their collections of all things Americana. He secretly despises the "Japs" and openly admires the Nazis because he is a racist and the kind of American who would have welcomed working with the Nazis to rid the world of the Communists, Jews, and inferior colored races.

Dick also writes of an impending war between the Nazis and the Japanese in which he portrays the Nazis, who are armed with ICBM's and hydrogen bombs, as death-loving psychopaths, and the Japanese as fairly normal and even humane (compared to the Germans). He makes fun of the Japanese obsession with "consulting the Oracle", or the I-Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, but he reserves his most caustic wit for the Aryan storm troopers and their American collaborators. ( )
  ChuckNorton | Feb 12, 2017 |
Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle examines a world in which the Axis powers defeated the Allies in World War II. For Dick's story, the divergence occurs when Giuseppe Zangara succeeded in his assassination attempt on FDR in 1933, leaving the US more reluctant to prepare for war and get involved. Dick focuses on Japanese-controlled San Francisco in the Pacific States of America as his characters examine the role of proper place and political intrigue between the Nazi-controlled United States (everything east of the Rockies). In Dick's alternate history, an author wrote a novel about a history in which the Allies won, titled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. That fictional novel-within-a-novel, like Man in the High Castle, serves as insight into the world that created it. Dick writes, "I tell you; a state is no better than its leader, Fürerprinzip- Principle of Leadership, like the Nazis say. They're right. Even this Abendsen has to face that. Sure, the USA expands economically after winning the war over Japan, because it's got that huge market in Asia that it's wrestled from the Japs. But that's not enough; that's got no spirituality. Not that the British have. They're both plutocracies, rule by the rich. If they had won, all they'd have through about was making more money, that upper class. Abendsen, he's wrong; there would be no social reform, no public works plans - the Anglo-Saxon plutocrats wouldn't have permitted it" (pg. 154). While a description of our world through a lens darkly, the combination of government and capitalism remains a threat, even without race-based totalitarian powers. This Folio Society edition contains gorgeous illustrations by Shotopop. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Feb 5, 2017 |
I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of Philip K Dick's classic 1962 alternate history.

Japan and Germany have won the 2nd World War. The United States is divided between the Nazis on the east coast, and the Japanese on the Pacific Coast. The story is told via the point of view of four main characters. Nobusuke Tagomi is a high placed Trade Official. He obtains American antiquities through the business of Robert Childan, a nervy japanophile and obsequious social climber. Also supplying Childan (with antiques of dubious provenance), is Frank Frink, Jewish-American metalworker and sometime jeweler, whose estranged wife lives in Canon City, in the buffer-zone mountain states. These characters choices are often made at the behest and request of divinations through the I Ching, the Book of Changes. All of them read or encounter the subversive novel, 'The Grasshopper Lies Heavy', which weaves a tale of an alternate history in which the USA had not been defeated.

Once refreshed of the plot, cannot understand why Amazon messed so extensively with the plot for the excellent miniseries which I enjoyed last year. The most inexplicable difference was the replacement of the novel 'The Grasshopper Lies Heavy', with clandestine and banned films. A book is just so much more accessible to a wide audience, than a banned film.

( )
  orkydd | Feb 2, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 195 (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.

(summary from another edition)

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