The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
Fiction | Sci-Fi/Dystopia | Alternate History
“Philip K. Dick’s acclaimed cult novel gives us a horrifying glimpse of an alternative world – one where the Allies have lost the Second World War. In this nightmare dystopia the Nazis have taken over New York, the Japanese control California and the African continent is virtually wiped out. In a neutral buffer zone in America that divides the world’s new rival superpowers, lives the author of an underground bestseller. His book offers a new vision of reality – an alternative theory of world history in which the Axis powers were defeated – giving hope to the disenchanted. Does ‘reality’ lie with him, or is his world just one among many others?”
TV Show Review: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
pooled ink Review:
I finally got around to reading the book! Woo! To be fair I knew it as a show before I noticed in the opening credits that it was based on a book, otherwise I’d have maybe tried to read it first. Regardless I was curious to know the similarities and differences between the two.
So, the TV show is definitely different from the original book, like a lot, which isn’t surprising considering the show is four seasons long but the book is less than 300 pages making it almost more of a novella, but the essence is undeniably there. I love the show and how it’s taken Philip K. Dick’s story as its source material and inspiration then expanded, twisted, dug into the details, and evolved from it, but it was really interesting to read the original pages that ignited it all. Alternate History meets Science Fiction in this intriguing, deadly, head-spinning What If? and it works.
The writing is detailed, thorough, and yet although once in a while it can feel a touch overbearing, for the most part it’s a delicate balance and delivers a clear picture of this broken world thriving within the pages. Personally I feel that the show, the directing, the actors, etc. do an excellent job of bringing the world to life in such a way that you truly almost believe it, but even so it’s always intriguing to read the book (in my opinion) just to get that extra glimpse into the characters’ thoughts and motivations. Although the book and TV show are quite different, I still loved being able to dive into their heads and follow the twisting paths of each character as they spin tighter and tighter into a collision course that could change everything.
The idea of “What if the Axis Powers won the war?” is hardly a unique one, but the concept Dick delivers in his book comes across fresh, riveting, impossible, realistic, and ends on a note that will have your head spinning. He doesn’t just settle on writing a story about the Axis Powers being in power and he doesn’t narrow it to just the Nazis being in power either. He takes everything a step further and a step wider while maintaining a level of detail that is to be applauded. This book isn’t about the Axis Powers ruling the world, it’s a story about people living within a world ruled by the Axis Powers. A small difference perhaps, but a key one.
We meet rebellious characters, defeated characters, compliant characters, cruel characters, obedient characters, and above all we meet curious characters. Each POV that spreads through the story feels like a genuine person and their account of life in the new world. The writing doesn’t just focus on a twisty plot or a killer ending, it also makes an effort to imbue reality within each moment either horrifying or hopeful.
Look, this is a short book and if you’re at all into the concept then I’d suggest giving it a read. Whether you down it in one day or you read one chapter a night (for me it was admittedly a slower read but I assure you I was no less intrigued) it won’t matter because there’s just something about it, like a gentle haunting lullaby that will pull you back in. And if reading the book doesn’t interest you (or even if it does) then you should definitely check out the Amazon Original TV Show Adaptation because it’s so well-done you’ll binge the entire thing in a week and walk around lost in a haze for the next month. I can’t wait for the fourth and final season!!
Purchase Here: The Man in the High Castle
Meet Philip K. Dick!
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, in Santa Ana, California, of heart failure following a stroke.
In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, ten of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.