Book of da Week: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle. Now a TV series made by Ridley Scott, apparently.

You, dear reader, will likely have inadvertently stumbled across genius science-fiction author Philip K. Dick – even if you’re not a literary nut. You see, several of his books have been adapted into acclaimed films, including: Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Truman Show, and A Scanner Darkly. To our surprise one of his lesser known texts, The Man in the High Castle (1962), has recently been adapted into a TV series. Produced by Ridley Scott, no less! As a consequence, it’s our Book Of Da Week! Huzzah for exclamation marks!

It’s one of his less flamboyant novels; you won’t find flying cars, robots, dramatic technology, or Harrison Ford running around swearing in existential dismay. No, this is a consideration of an alternative history – what would have happened if the Allies had lost the Second World War? To take on the topic, Dick (lol) went on an insane history binge session by reading loads of books about WWII and other stuff. He dosed up on Taoist philosophy and went the route of an Implicit Overlord, which leads to a far more subtle book than you’d expect given the subject matter. You won’t find lamentations on humanity, dramatic car chases, or characters dropping to their knees and screaming “NOOOO!”. It’s almost entirely free of emotive scenes describing chaos and unpleasantness, which is what makes the book the intelligent piece of work it is.

The author decides the world would have been divided between two Superpowers in the form of Germany and Japan, the former ruling Europe and Africa with the latter governing Asia. Japan’s rise has seen the use of the I Ching (the legendary Chinese book of foresight) in society, and the book’s central characters refer to it regularly as a coping mechanism for their existence within a totalitarian society. This, however, is one of Dick’s (lol) favourite themes – the nature of reality. By referring to the I Ching, the characters appear to search for a better future and question the illusory nature of existence. Who would have thought science fiction could be so meaningful, huh?

The arrival of Amazon Prime’s well received pilot episode should see the book find a new audience. It’s certainly his best novel, by quite some distance to be honest. His normally manic tone of voice isn’t for everyone, but with The Man in the High Castle Mr. Dick (lol) produced what you could well describe as a masterpiece for all to enjoy. Kudos, sonny jim. Kudos.

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