Hi all! Another book review here today, and this one may be one you’ve heard of before, thanks to the adapted Amazon original series of the same name: The Man in the High Castle. I admit that I learned about this book through the show (although I have only watched the first episode) and ever since I heard about it, wanting to read it has haunted me. And now that I’ve read it, the memory of the book is still haunting me—in a great way.
The Man in the High Castle is a classic sci-fi novel by Philip K. Dick, a master of the genre. He creates a world in the mid 1960s in which Germany and Japan won World War II, and have carved up the United States as a result: the West Coast is Japanese-controlled and the East Coast is German-controlled. You can imagine all the horrific ramifications of such a world. The world-building is told through a cast of characters living in San Francisco, including the gentle, spiritual Japanese official Mr. Tagomi, a jewelry maker and Jew-in-hiding Frank Frink, and his estranged ex-wife Juliana who now lives in a neutral “buffer zone” between the two occupied areas, among others.
To say this book is unsettling is an understatement. The Jewish Holocaust was successful, meaning Jewish people all over the world have been exterminated, save for some who have survived and are in hiding. The Japan-controlled area enforces strict social classes and non-Japanese people are second-class citizens. It’s dark stuff—especially since there’s no underground resistance movement. The conquered Americans, even though they’re resentful of their “overlords,” are pretty much used to it by now. Cultures have collided, and the I Ching, for example, is read by all.
But this is science fiction after all. The real eeriness of the novel is encapsulated in a man known as “The Man in the High Tower,” who wrote a book about an alternate reality (very meta) in which America actually did win the war, along with the Allied powers. This book is banned in the German-controlled states, but when Juliana pursues the author for details about his world, something very strange happens…
Seriously, this book will captivate you. And now I think I have to continue to watch the show!