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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Man In The High Castle

Copyright 1962 by Philip K. Dick

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point    Superb (5/5)

I first read this in 1969 and most recently on the 22nd March 2004

In this novel Dick gives us a horrifying vision of a future in which the Axis won WWII. The Jews have been slaughtered. Africa's population has been eliminated. America is ruled on the East by the Nazis and on the West by the Japanese. Only the Rocky Mountain States remain relatively independent.

Robert Childan runs American Artistic handicrafts, selling fake American antiques to the gullible Japanese conquerers.

Frank Fink and Ed McCarthy are starting their own original jewellery business. However, these days only the Japanese buy American products and they want only antique cultural artifacts.

Juliana Frink is a judo instructress and thinking about suicide: "We have no value...We live out our tiny lives. If we want to. If it matters to us."

Nobusuke Tagomi, the head of the Japanese Imperial Trade Mission in San Francisco, is presented with a situation far out of his orthodox expertise, and far more dangerous than anything in his experience.

These are normal people trying to live in a repellently evil world. They have absorbed some of the distorted attitudes of the Nazi overlords, but still try to puzzle out a way to live their individual lives in some humanity, to achieve some level of grace.

For those that seek spiritual guidance, the I Ching provides the clues to the future, to the better way to live. For others, Abendson's "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy", the novel within this novel, enthralls its readers with a vision of an alternate reality in which the Allies defeated the Axis in WWII. Their own reality has no hope for a better future. However, the I Ching and "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" suggest that, in some different universe, a better way could have been followed. Some of the characters, perhaps those who struggled hard enough, are granted a glimpse of this more hopeful world.

As usual in Dick's books, we see the world through the lives of ordinary people caught up in extreme conditions. We experience the horror of fanatical Nazi fascism peripherally, but very powerfully, through the thoughts and conversations of these characters.

In this sophisticated novel, Disk provides us unforgettable characters and none more so than Nobusuke Tagomi, who rises with humble brilliance to his challenge.

Whether or not you are a fan of Philip K. Dick, you must read this novel. This is simply his best book. It is superb.

Loaded on the 5th May 2004.
Cover of The Man In The High Castle
Cover art by Jamie P. Keenan