Have you ever considered what would have resulted had the Allied powers won World War II?
It’s okay, if not– few residents of the Rocky Mountain States or the Pacific States of America do. That is, until a certain Abendsen pens a sociopolitical novel about a parallel universe in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is not assassinated and the story of man is drastically altered.
The validity of either account above, of course, depends on which universe you happen to preside in.
In what we consider the real one, Philip K. Dick spins an intricate, artful, in places head-shaking and chuckle-inducing tale. Covering holistically the story of the German- and Japanese-ruled America of the 1960s requires calling on multiple points of view. P.K.D.’s narrators are engaging and enjoyable– most of the time. The only apparent downside to so many of them is the occasional instance when they start to sound like each other. Outside of that, they are sympathetic yet flawed; through their eyes, the global alterations become emotionally jarring to those of us in the “other dimension,” as well.
P.K.D.’s imagery and description, sprinkled throughout in effective and appropriate places, is exquisite: “The views had infected a civilization by now, and, like evil spores, the blind blond Nazi queens were swishing out from Earth to the other planets, spreading the contamination.” The author’s pacing– intense moments spread about by relatively (one could say) monotonous ones– is well-executed.
Socio-politically, P.K.D.’s courage is admirable– he constructs a fascinatingly intricate political mechanism whose nations are– as ours– divided internally as well as outwardly. Specific historical figures (from our side) play key roles. The space race is expanded. Cultures are blended– or, attempts by peoples are made to do so. Identity is explored.
Outside of the political, themes encompass religion, relativism, nihilism (at least, the fruitless search for meaning that may eventually lead to it), and pride in one’s heritage. The author presents these so skillfully, along with defining the boundaries between universes, that by the end it takes effort to see the lines at all.
The Man In the High Castle was a delight to read, good food for thought, and entices the imagination. I’d recommend it to anyone, and I give it a definite 3.5/5 stars.