Saturday, February 27, 2016

Man In A High Castle by Philip K. Dick

One of the Hugo winners I am rereading.

The book happens in an alternative world, where Germany and Japan won the Second World War. Germany occupies the east coast of the former US while a heavily Japanese influenced government rules the west coast as a Pacific States of America. There is a nominally independent buffer country, Rocky Mountain States, composing of the middle part of the former USA between these. The Japanese elite collects old American memorabilia and keeps it in high regard. One of the main characters, Robert Childan, has a shop which sells such things, among others civil war era revolvers. He apparently has a fairly severe inferiority complex towards the civilized and cultured Japanese. Meanwhile the German dictator, Martin Bormann, has died (Hitler is still alive but incapacitated due to syphilis), and there is a power struggle which might rock the world. The Germans have dried out the Mediterranean for farmland and are in the middle of “cleaning out” Africa of racially undesirables - that is practically every person on the continent. They have developed rocket ships and are colonizing the solar system. A popular book which is widely read in the middle and eastern parts of America (and is extremely forbidden in German run parts of the world) is an alternative fiction telling of a world where USA and England won the war. That world is more like ours, but not exactly. The author supposedly lives in a well-protected “High Castle” and is afraid of German assassins with good reason. There is a pair of jewelry designers who are trying to push their new, non-representative designs; there is an undercover German agent who masquerades as a Swedish businessman, and so on.

As you can see there are very many separate storylines going on. The world which was presented was well imagined, logical and interesting, but the plot itself was pretty diffuse with too many fairly separate plots - all of them interesting as such, but at times it felt that the book might have been better if a few of the many plots were left out or expanded as separate stories. The writing was excellent, and there were some details which cast suspicions on what is real and what is not – but not so many as in some other books by Dick. Well, there is a lot of available source material in this book for the new TV series with the same name which has been running for a few episodes. Unfortunately, there apparently is no legal way to watch it in Finland. The book was excellent, but perhaps a little less so I remembered.

249 pp.

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