The Man in the High Castle

by Philip K. Dick
Reviewed date: 2006 Jun 30
Rating: 4
259 pages
cover art

The Man in the High Castle was not the first alternate history novel, but it helped to define the genre. Philip K. Dick posits a world where Germany and Japan won the second world war. The United States is divided in half, part under Japanese dominion and part under Nazi rule.

The plot is loose, and follows half a dozen characters who overlap only tangentially. Frank Frink, a businessman, tries to start a jewelry shop selling authentic American designs. Robert Childan, a dealer in American antiquities, learns that much the merchandise he sells (mostly to rich Japanese tourists) is fake. And Mr. Tagomi, a Japanese official in San Francisco, is made aware of a plot against Japan.

But the most interesting character in the book is Hawthorne Abendsen, an author who wrote The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, a book banned by the Nazis. His story depicts an alternate reality in which Japan and Germany lost the second world war--although the details are not the same as what actually happened in our world.

There's not much to say except that The Man in the High Castle is a fun book to read. I particularly enjoyed the Asian style of language--although the book is in English, it is English as if spoken by a Japanese foreigner. It's a great way to hammer home the point that Japan, not America, is culturally dominant.

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