The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 (first published in 1962)
Genres: Science fiction, dystopian fiction, classics
Format: Kindle eBook
The Allies did not win the Second World War. Germany and Japan prevailed and have divided the world between them. The USA has been carved into three: the Greater German Reich, a neutral central zone level with the Rocky Mountains, and the Japanese-controlled Pacific States. Germany’s technology far outstrips that of Japan, who cling to their strict traditions and honour, imposing these on the rest of the population, over which they rule.
There is a book, however, which details a world in which the Axis powers did not win the war. This book has been banned of course, but most of the characters are engrossed in reading and discussing it.
The premiss of this book is genius. Just imagine what the world would be like if the outcome of WW2 had been different! Philip K. Dick does an incredible job of creating that world and it is very believable.
That being said, I struggled with the characters. I found it difficult to really engage with any of them, which made it difficult for me to care about the direction in which their stories were going. On another note, that are basically no female characters in this book. The main female character, Juliana, has the potential to be amazing. She is a judo teacher who left her husband and the Pacific States to seek a new life in the neutral zone. I won’t give away any spoilers, but safe to say that she turns out to be very disappointing. Is this merely a feature of the time, as this book was originally published in the 1960s? Or a reflection of the Nazi-Japanese position on women in society? Either way, I was disappointed.
Another aspect that I struggled with was the clipped and grammatically incorrect style of speaking. I understand that this was meant to underline the “Japanisation” of the Pacific States, but I really didn’t like it. Everyone just ended up sounding like robots and I found it hard to stay engaged.
However, I do love a good “book within a book” moment. I loved that many of the characters are preoccupied with this book. Whether they are intrigued about the possibility of a world where the Allies won the war, or afraid of the population getting their hands on this dangerous book and causing trouble.
I would warn any fans of the Amazon original series based on this book, that this is a very different story, so be prepared for that.
My rating: 3/5