Thoughts on “The Man in the High Castle”

So, after finishing reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” for the second time, I found myself looking for WWII books, and especially alternate histories. I was reminded about “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick while browsing, and decided to pick it up and give it a try. Upon finishing it, my reaction to it is … meh.

The book itself isn’t bad. I like how he develops the characters and, to some degree, how he presents the world if the Axis had won the war instead of losing it. The characters and character storylines are, in fact, interesting. The problem with it is that, really, that nothing gets developed sufficiently in the book. We don’t really hear enough about what happened to change things. We don’t hear enough about “The Man in the High Castle” and the link between his book and the I Ching Oracle. We don’t really get resolutions to any of the character stories. We don’t even get a resolution in any way to the upcoming clash between the Japanese and the Germans. So it comes across, essentially, like a bunch of really good ideas that didn’t really get anywhere. So, really, he should have either picked a few and ran with them, or else really set it up as a series of books and then resolved things appropriately for that.

As it is, this doesn’t really work as a work of alternate history because we don’t really get the perspective of what’s different and what changed. It doesn’t work as a character piece because we get no real resolution to their stories. The conflict doesn’t work either because it develops too slowly to be interesting and then doesn’t really go anywhere. And because of that, this doesn’t really work as something that might have started a series of books. Compared to more recent alternate histories, this isn’t that great.

The passages in broken English kinda work, but a casual reading didn’t reveal the pattern for their use that much, although it does look like there is one. Also, I think it would have been better if the book written by “The Man in the High Castle” had described our sequences of events, instead of a different one. Sure, you might be able to play it as hinting that maybe our history isn’t true, but for that to really work more of that had to be hinted at earlier in the book, and it wasn’t, so it’s far too easy to just make it an alternate history of an alternate history.

Ultimately, the book was enjoyable, but I’ve read far better alternate histories of that timeframe and with that conclusion.

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