What would it be like if the Nazis had won and gone on to take over America? What would life be like if the Japanese ruled alongside them and all other races were left in slavery and discrimination? That’s what The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick discusses.
One of the most famous science fiction authors of all time, Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle tells the separate tales of three main characters during an alternate 1960s where Germany and Japan won the war. I must admit right off the bat, I have watched the Amazon Prime tv series before reading the book which I feel may have affected my enjoyment of this book every so slightly.
Plot – 3.5/5
We essentially follow the story of three or four main characters within this novel, all of whom have different journeys that are affected by the alternative regime that 1960s America finds itself in. One is a high-powered politician from whom we discover the political decisions made and thoughts of those in power in this alternate reality. Another is that of a man who finds himself trying to just get around in life as a jew who is trying to mascarade as non-jew. Another tale told is that of a man who sells war memorabilia and his struggles with dealing goods in such a climate. And finally, we have by far the most interesting: the journey of a woman who finds a book that tells of an alternate reality where Germany lost the war (our own reality).
Other than the story of the book that tells of the alternate story (written by a man who once lived in a castle), none of the other stories had me particularly intrigued and I wasn’t really sure of the point of the jewellers especially. The politician’s story I enjoyed as it covered how Germany rule and the harsh decisions made high-up. But the others I simply didn’t care for. For a premise with so much potential, I felt it wasn’t fully used.
Characters – 3/5
I can’t say I particularly enjoyed any of the characters in this book. Everybody seemed to have a fairly mundane personality, no one ever cracked a joke or seemed to do anything other than worry or think pessimistic thoughts. Now, this could be clever character design from Philip K. Dick as a sign of the sort of environment they live in, but it’s a regime they’ve been living in for twenty years, you’d think they’d be a little used to it by now.
The gentleman who sold antiques was the only one whose internal monologues were slightly relatable and brought out a few of his personality traits. He worries a lot about what people think of him and panics and struggles to think optimistically within his job. But all-in-all, I wouldn’t read this if you’re hoping for some great characters you’re going to fall in love with.
The Man In The High Castle summary – 3/5
As you can tell, I was deeply disappointed by this book. However, as I said in my opening, I read this after having watched the Amazon Prime series. The TV series utilises the potential of this new realised world so much better – exploring more the politics, the danger and the scheming that would inevitably happen under Nazi rule.
Being a shorter book can sometimes be a hindrance, but I’ve read other books of equal length that I still thoroughly enjoyed, this I did not. I wouldn’t ever tell anybody not to bother with a book, but if you’ve watched the TV series of The Man In The High Castle and want to see if the book is better, it’s safe to say it isn’t. It’s simply the base from which the TV series is based.