The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history book written in 1962 by PKD. It envisions a world where the allies lost WWII and in the aftermath, the U.S. has been divided with the west coast states belonging to the Japanese and the East Coast/Central U.S. for the Germans.
I love history and often wonder about alternative history, myself. I just came off of reading the graphic novel East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta which tells a more fantastical story about how the Civil War never ended. I also love the mini-series 11/22/63, though I have not read the book.
This all made me pretty excited to read this book, but I have to be honest and say I was a little letdown. I think that is mostly because a lot of the storylines did not really seem to further the plot dealing with the titular Man in the High Castle. I thought that was kind of strange, but I’m sure that was PKD’s intent and giving us just an incite into this world and the politics.
The book is divided into about 4 or 5 different storylines. I much preferred the Julianna storyline, which I will call the High Castle plot, and the Robert Childan storyline. The Childan one did not really tie into the High Castle plot. I mainly liked the dialogue and the inner dialogue that his character had as he is a white man inferior to his Japanese customers coming into his antique shop.
There were two storylines mainly focused on the politics between the J.S.A. (Japanese States of America) and the German states. I didn’t really understand all of the innerworkings of these plots and therefore didn’t really enjoy them all that much.
The last storyline deals with Frank Frink who is fired from his job and starts his own business making jewelry. I still do not understand the importance of this plot other than it symbolizing American’s creating something for themselves in this alternate world. Later in the story, a Japanese man acquires one of the pieces of jewelry and is seemingly transported to a world where the Americans won the war, but minutes later is back in his own world. Maybe he was seeing glimpses of American grit? I’m not sure.
A sub-plot that ties heavily into the High Castle plot is the titular Man in the High Castle has written a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which tells a story about the Allies winning WWII. It is a popular book throughout the U.S. but is banned in the German states, for obvious reasons. Julianna then goes on a trip to meet the author of the book.
I still think this was the most engaging plot for me, but I’m not quite sure what the resolution of it means. I will leave out spoilers.
The Final Thought:
There were times in this book when the politics just dragged it out for me. And, for not being a difficult read it is a difficult book to really wrap my head around what it is actually trying to say. I guess that is PKD for you. I will definitely be revisiting him in the future.
Thanks for reading!