Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Five Stars

“I want to comprehend. I have to. But he knew he never would. Just be glad and keep moving.”

An early alternative history, it is among the best. Dick not only alters history and politics, but also culture and scientific achievement, consistent with what precedes his story. The result in an incredibly rich, engaging tale of what might have been. Manages to include major philosophic and religious issues. Very close telling of internal conflicts and aspirations.

“Nobody was hurt … until the day of reckoning and then everyone, equally, would be ruined.”

I can’t believe this was written in 1962. Dick displays a depth of understanding which many lacked. I can’t believe I missed it then.

“He should have that cold but enthusiastic look, as if he believed in nothing and yet somehow had absolute faith.”

Stands up well to more than fifty years of intervening history. I suppose that we who lived through the 50s and 60s appreciate his achievement more than younger readers because we can compare it to the 1962 we experienced. Young readers today are as ignorant of 1962 as we were of World War One.

“We must presume that the worst, rather than the best, choice will be made.”

One especially good plot device is Dick’s planting an alternate history book inside his alternate history, and letting his fictional characters react to it. He shunned the easy route of making his alternated-history-squared make ours, increasing the reader’s fun. Similarly, his mixing of apparently conflicting cultural norms lends credence to the hybrid culture he posits. Subtle illusions of all sorts.

“Red herrings strewn hither and yon.”

Warning: sensitive modern readers will have a cow. Dick reports many racial, gender, and ethnic prejudices the way they were. Trigger words abound. I think he found the right mix for his day. Butchered English idioms by Japanese may seem in poor taste today, but it helped minimize dialogue tags, reveal the depth of the character’s awareness of American culture, and seem appropriate for occupying forces in the western United States.

“I have pathetic tendency to … choose the easier of two evils.”

Quibble: the great circle route from Berlin to San Francisco lies 800 statute miles away from Canon City, CO.

“We can only control the end by making a choice each step. We can only hope and try.”

The TV show differs significantly. Read the book.

“Even if one person finds his way … that means there is a Way.”

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (Five Stars)

  1. Have read some of his work. Not this one. I took Dennis Danvers’ sci-fi class at VCU some years ago where I was introduced to Philip K. Dick. One of the best, for sure. Thanks.

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