Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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

Philip K. Dick's reimagining of history is a horrifying tale of what it would be like if the Nazis and Japan had won World War II but suffers from a large spread of characters in a rather short book with very little plot to sustain the story. The world and setting are imagined with terrifying detail as Jews must remain in hiding and the United States is split down the middle with racism predominant through the states. The story never settles on a main character and bounces around through several loosely related viewpoints more building a world than telling a story. The plot does not capture much tension and often fails to entertain. 

I have only seen the first two episodes of the television show adaptation wanting to finish the book first but I can already tell that they take very divergent paths to the story of alternate history. There are a lot of things that I would have like to see further explored in the book like the disgusting thought of Nazis traveling into space and a potential uprising. There is also the growing tension between the Japanese and Germans that plays out with a spy revealing the secrets of the new German leadership that take over after the death of a leader. 

The main couple is Frank Frink, who changed his name from Fink to hide his Jewish ancestry, and his distant wife Juliana, who has fled San Francisco to leave out in Colorado. Frank has devised a way to create modern Amerian art as he exposes an antique salesman Robert Childan as a fraud and then has his partner propose a sale. Antiques from the American Civil War are popular but modern American art is shunned because the Japanese and German do not believe in American Exceptionalism.

Juliana has fallen for an Italian man Joe Cinnadella who is reading a  banned book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy about an alternative universe where Germany and Japanese lost the world. Joe has a secret and wants to meet the author of this book using Juliana as a distraction. The author Hawthorne Abendsen is rumored to being in a fortress for his own protection. When Juliana discovers the truth about Joe's mission, she violently takes matters into her own hands and arranges to meet Abendsen to discover the truth about his fiction.

The book is rather anticlimactic with one interesting action scene between Japanese leadership and the German police as they try to abduct a spy who has pertinent information about a conspiracy. Other characters achieve small victories but still live under the ruthless Japanese and German rule so not a very triumphant ending, to be expected with PKD. This Hugo award winning book was not as mindblowing as I thought it would be but maybe that's the new reality that I've come to accept with recent current events. 

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