Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick

I have really enjoyed movies based on Philip K. Dick's books and stories.  I have rarely enjoyed his books and stories.  PKD fans, of course, will say I'm too shallow or something and don't appreciate great literature, settling for the dumbed-down Hollywood versions.  I respond that it's a matter of taste.

I haven't seen any of the TV series The Man in the High Castle, but I suspect my experience will line up with my history.  The book, while it follows a more traditional narrative structure than some of his other novels, isn't very good.  From what I've heard and seen on the previews, the TV show is probably better.

In The Man in the High Castle, Japan and Germany won World War 2 and each occupy respective regions of the former United States.  A popular book, banned in Nazi-occupied areas, presents an alternative future in which the U.S. won the war.  That's kind of a fun idea: alternative fiction about a work of alternative fiction which more closely matches our reality.  The author, who is reputed to live in a high castle, is both admired and targeted.

The loosely related story lines never came together for me very well.  The representation of west coast cutlure under Japanese rule is a little bit interesting, but not really.  The idea that technology developed much more quickly under the Nazis--they are sending manned missions to Mars and Venus--is implausible.  None of the personal stories or disparate plot lines appealed to me.

Dick has enough good ideas here that I will still check out the TV show at some point.  As fascinating as the ideas behind his writing are, the fact that for the ideas to be shaped into a decent story requires other writers' refinement and explication tells me that PKD's influence is far greater than his talent.

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