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April 24, 2017

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

By: Philip K. Dick


In 1963, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for Best Novel.  Over 50 years later, it’s focus on race and class issues is still relevant, enough to warrant it a TV adaptation.  I decided to read it because I had never read an alternate history sci-fi novel and wanted to give it a try.  It is written as a contemporary novel of the 1960s, but with the twist that Germany and Japan won World War II, resulting in the United States being divvied up into territories under German or Japanese rule.  The action takes place in San Francisco, ruled by the Japanese, and in the Rocky Mountain States, where the author known as “the man in the high castle” lives.

There is actually little overt description of advanced technology, as one might expect from a sci-fi novel, and the famous political figures from WWII appear only by name.  Instead, the story interweaves the lives and perspectives of several characters as they struggle to live life under a totalitarian regime, in which every race has a definitive “place” in the class structure.  By the end of the book, we see each of the main characters choosing to live according to their sense of morality and philosophy of life, but there is no clear climax or tied-up ending.  Rather, the point seems to be that history unfolds one decision at a time, with each person playing their small, but significant, part.

This is definitely a good book to discuss with others, as it can be rather confusing to read on one’s own.  I found the unclear distinction between the 3rd-person narrator and the thoughts of the characters to be a particularly difficult aspect of the style.  Thus, I would recommend this book for a book group, science fiction and history enthusiasts, or anyone interested in reading a unique writing style.

Review By:  Alison Frolik