The Man in the High Castle

Many people will recognize this name as the title of the Amazon series. But, as I was lucky to discover, whilst perusing the library’s science fiction section, the show is based off a Philip K. Dick novel. Even though I have never seen the show, I’m going to guess that the novel is quite different from the program.

As you already know, The Man in the High Castle is a tale about an alternate history where FDR is assassinated back in the 30s, the US never makes it out of the depression, and the Axis powers win the war. Japan controls the west coast of the United States and the Reich controls the East coast.

The dominant powers have imposed their will. We spend most of the novel in California, where whites are second class citizens. Racial superiority is the name of the game here. We are casually informed that the Germans pretty much succeeded in killing off the Jews. And that German superiority in technology has led to a severe power gap between Germany and Japan.

We learn this gradually throughout the novel because the focus of the novel is really on the small scale, individual experiences of several different characters. We get to see their lives living under Japanese rule, and in some cases, as the rulers. It’s beautiful, and very philosophical. It’s intimate in a way you wouldn’t expect a novel of this premise to be.

For me, the only drawback is how much more I wanted to learn about this world. There’s clearly so much backstory that I’d love to delve into. Potential lore to be parsed. But that’s the fantasy nerd in me, failing to appreciate the beauty of the writing.

The title refers to an author who writes a book describing what would have needed to happen to let the United States win the war. It’s similar to our history yet different in enough intriguing ways. It’s a decent side story, but didn’t have much of an impact on me as a reader. There clearly was some point being made, but I didn’t get it. I had a much more enjoyable time with Tagomi as he struggled with his existence after killing two men. To each their own.

3 out of 4 stars.

 

 

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