Arthur Chappell

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BOOK REVIEW- PHILIP K. DICK – THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE 1962 Science Fiction Masterworks #72 Gollanz

 

One of the earliest and best alternative, or parallel histories in all science fiction, dealing, as with many other such books, with the premise of an Axis victory in World War Two.

 

America has been partitioned between Germany and Japan, much as Germany, and particularly, Berlin, was divided following the allied victory.  There is a narrow neutral zone between the two powers, and much of the story takes place here.

 

Much of the plot centres on a small group of Americana antiques dealers catering for a Japanese fascination for all things American including old fashioned wild west handguns. As such memorabilia is rare, the hero is faking the goods for sale, and believes that if a fake is taken for real, it is just as good if not better than real. The old guns he makes do fire and kill, so he takes them for good ones.

 

The Nazis remain as vile as ever, having virtually exterminated the entire population of Africa.  The Japanese are more civilized and inquisitive conquerors however, with little reference to their war crimes. Hitler has resigned suffering from Syphilis. His successor, Martin Bormann, has died and the Nazi High Command is contesting fiercely to take his place.

 

Underlying his story is that of a dangerous book, Hawthorne Abendsen’s The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, (a line from the I Ching, a work quoted and used in itself throughout the PKD novel). An alternative history of the war in which the allies won, (with events echoing, but not exactly the same as those of our real history). The author is believed to be living in an impregnable fortress, and various fans, as well as Nazis intent on suppressing the work before it leads to a revolution, set out to find the surprisingly un-reclusive author. The hero’s wife kills an assassin who is trying to get to the author intent on killing him.

 

Powerful, thoughtful, and a deserved Hugo Award winning masterpiece.

 

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell

                                   

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