The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
This book isn't always easy to enjoy, but it is a very worthwhile read. There's plenty here to get you thinking, but please don't expect the over-sensationalised antics we've seen in the TV series.
PKD takes us on extended thought experiment and whisks us into a world wrought by the twin powers of Nazi Germany and Japan. For anyone interested in exploring alternate histories, this book is essential reading.
Although the book is short, it makes an impact on the reader by virtue of its stripped down plot and its sparse style. So why do I suggest that it's not always enjoyable?
There are two things that jarred for me. Firstly, one of the main characters is an American who desperately wants to be accepted by the Japanese upper classes, and his speech and internal thoughts are written in a curiously clipped way that is intended to suggest the way that every aspect of his personality has become modified by the occupying Japanese forces. This is a clever writing technique, but it tends to pull the reader out of the story. It can be difficult to read these passages without wondering if it's riddled with typos. Secondly, there is a lot of discussion of the I-Ching, and these passages left me cold. I have no interest in the mystical I-Ching and it doesn't add anything to the story. Thirdly, the pacing is somewhat uneven. Some parts of the story slow down so much that they almost grind to a halt, e.g. there are long passages where one character explains the content of the illicit book to another, effectively giving them a history lesson. But what little action there is becomes crammed together, and I felt as though the more active plot needed a little more room to breathe. And finally, without spoiling the plot, there is an element of anti-climax in this book.
In conclusion, I do recommend that you read The Man in the High Castle, because it's the kind of book that will stay with you. You'll find yourself wondering about the many coincidences that have woven themselves though our shared histories. And given the turmoil in our current climate, there is perhaps no better time to muse on what might have been. Perhaps, if we all concentrate very hard, we can recreate the world anew, and see a brighter version of reality.
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