Review: “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick

The Man in the High Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)

Thumbs up for The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Science fiction.

I liked this so much better than Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (see my review). I would have liked it more if I were a WWII history buff, as the world of the novel (an alternate history in which Germany and Japan won the war) takes first billing here over a fast-paced plot. As I am not at all a WWII history buff, my eyes did occassionally glaze over for a page here and there. But the intertwining stories of the various characters, through which we see different aspects of the new society, carry things along well. One genius aspect of the book is incorporation of the I Ching as a socially-accepted decision-making process; one might say it acts as a character in its own right. (Also, one does not see many well-characterized Buddhists in fiction so kudos to PKD for that. I dig Mr Tagomi.) A must for all science fiction readers, well-deserving its status as a classic of the field.

But above and beyond everything else, he had originally been drawn by her screwball expression; for no reason, Juliana greeted strangers with a portentous, nudnik, Mona Lisa smile that hung them up between responses, whether to say hello or not. And she was so attractive that more often than not they did say hello, whereupon Juliana glided by. At first he had thought it was just plain bad eyesight, but finally he had decided that it revealed a deep-dyed otherwise concealed stupidity at her core. And so finally her borderline flicker of greeting to strangers had annoyed him, as had her plantlike, silent, I’m-on-a-mysterious-errand way of coming and going. But even then, toward the end, when they had been fighting so much, he still never saw her as anything but a direct, literal invention of God’s, dropped into his life for reasons he would never know. And on that account – a sort of religious intuition or faith about her – he could not get over having lost her.

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