Book - The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

Steve Taylor-Bryant says this is one of the most important works of fiction ever! By that we think he means it's very good...

I like traditional Sci-Fi books. I also like political and historical tales. I've even read some Dan Brown and survived with my IQ intact (7 is a good score right?), but I LOVE dystopian novels. Alternate, dark, oppressive realities are what I want on my bookshelf. So when it came to celebrating Philip K Dick day, my book choice had to be The Man In The High Castle.

Written in 1961 and based in a contempory United States of that time, Dick introduces a world where the Allies have lost the Second World War and the Axis (Japan and Nazi Germany) have taken global control. North America is split into three sections - the Pacific Seaboard is under Japanese rule, the Eastern American state is occupied by the Germans, whilst the Rocky Mountain Central state is a sort of demilitarised zone.

Philip K Dick introduces his alternate world story slowly, introducing just a few characters who narrate their boring everyday lives and think about the world they live in without much happening, but this is far from being boring to read. In fact, it borders on clever as you get into many mind-sets and imagine the world with the same clarity as you would watch a film. The descriptive narrative is not too over-bearing either, allowing for great visions by the reader of the dystopia on the page.

The Japanese are written as an honourable people, accepting of the Americans they now rule and fascinated by their history. They are the collectors of civil war memorabilia and 1920's comic books, as opposed to the Nazis who have carried out their Final Solution in Africa, drained and destroyed the once beautiful Mediterranean and globalised space. The character interaction described by Dick, especially between Frank Frink and the Japanese, leads you to such an insight into what we could have actually been living like had we lost.

Then Dick's pure genius makes an appearance. How do you turn this world we the reader have just got used to on its head? Put our reality into theirs as a work of fiction. The titular character makes his appearance now as the reclusive author Hawthorne Abendsen, who has written a novel which scares the Nazis so much they have him on an assassination list. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is his novel about what the world would be like if the Allies had won and seeing the reaction of the characters mirroring our own reactions to THEIR reality is a real play with the mind of the reader.

The whole book is written in an easily flowing way, allowing the complexities of the plot to manifest in the readers subconscious, with each avid fan taking something different from this alternate realm.

The Man In The High Castle won a Hugo award for Science Fiction, but it is more than just your average SF novel.

In my opinion it is the most important work of fiction you will ever read.

Image - IMDb.