The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History
Publishing Info: 2015 TV tie in edition by Penguin Classics (first published 1962)
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
Philip K. Dick’s acclaimed cult novel gives us a horrifying glimpse of an alternative world – one where the Allies have lost the Second World War. In this nightmare dystopia the Nazis have taken over New York, the Japanese control California and the African continent is virtually wiped out. In a neutral buffer zone in America that divides the world’s new rival superpowers, lives the author of an underground bestseller. His book offers a new vision of reality – an alternative theory of world history in which the Axis powers were defeated – giving hope to the disenchanted. Does ‘reality’ lie with him, or is his world just one among many others?
The Man in the High Castle explores the concept of an alternate outcome of WWII. This is the first alternate history novel I have read, and since I enjoyed Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I thought this would be a good choice. It was slow to start, with a lot of seemingly unconnected characters. However as the book goes on and you see the connections between the various strands it gets a lot more interesting. It was a slow build that got more intriguing as it went on.
The setting was a little confusing at times, to get my head around in what ways this world differs from our own, and which parts of America are occupied by the Japanese or the Germans. Although I was confused I had enough idea of where the characters were and what was going on to enjoy reading it.
The world building could have been stronger descriptively. Dick conveyed a clear picture of the political landscape and tensions, but visually there weren’t many descriptions to show what the setting is like. This meant I wasn’t sure if the setting was supposed to just look like America would have done at that time in our reality, or if it was different – architecturally or in terms of technology.
The ending baffled me at first, and I had to think about it and even Google it to be sure if I had understood it right. It is an ambiguous ending, which could be interpreted in many different ways, which was interesting. Although at the end there were a couple of the plot/character strands that I still wasn’t sure how exactly they connected. I think this is a book that could do with a second reading in order to fully understand it.
It was slow in places but an interesting read that, as a whole, was thought-provoking and engaging.