The Man in the High Castle has been on my To Read list for years. It’s not that I suddenly have extra time so much that I now admit I will never have extra time and decided to fit it in. I started with a less than stellar audiobook reading and finished up with the physical book – to my mind always preferable.
This book was amazing! Until now, my favorite books by far have been Cancer Ward by Solzhenitsyn and David Copperfield. (Why Copperfield – I think it’s a retelling of the Book of Job – but that’s another post.) High Castle definitely moves right next to them.
What makes this book so good is the writing and the characters. Nobusuke Tagomi is one of the best characters in fiction – science or otherwise. He is thoughtful in the sense that he questions and examines every event. He is courageous in his approach to preserving what is important. He is fragile in all the best meanings of the word. When his moment of truth occurs, his reaction is achingly human. All of the layers of racism and political rhetoric fall away and he stands there, simply human.
Juliana is another character who stands out, though for me more for her negative traits than for her positive. When she reaches her moment of truth, she must make a choice that will come out to her material advantage or eschew that path and follow what for her is either a moral path or one of satisfying her curiosity. Her choice leads to the climax and resolution of the novel.
Essentially, The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history in which the Nazis and the Japanese win WWII. It shows the United States as it would be if it were split unequally between those two powers. All of our social norms would be out the window. What would be expected would depend more entirely upon where you lived than it does in our contemporary society. It leads to some appalling outcomes.
Philip K. Dick has created not just an alternate history, but one with some science fiction included in the form of advanced technology and the possibility of alternate realities. It’s definitely worth your time to read.
By the way, the book has some overlap with the Amazon Prime TV series, but not in some fundamental ways. Juliana, for instance, is a very different character in the show, as is Frank. And, John Smith is an entirely new character. This is not to say that one is better than the other. They are different enough that I’m happy to have both.
Get your copy here.