Review of The Man in the High Castle (1962)


Philip K. Dick (writer).

Read in 2018.

28 years after the 1934 assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a lot of people are reading a novel about an alternate history where the fascists lost WW2.

Regrettably the focus is not on the meatier aspects of history. Instead, Dick’s preoccupation with fakeness dominates the narrative. His perspective on women is creepy and also takes up a lot of the foreground.

Fortunately, it seems plausible that the Japanese occupiers would be so interested in pre-war American artifacts that the fake ones can be profitable. Still, as Dick seems to know, his Japanese are Said-esque “orientals”, technologically stranded with the Chinese I Ching and pedicab while the Nazis miraculously colonize the inner planets in plastic rocket ships and barrel toward a collapse that never comes: an endless fascist freefall, extrapolating from the result of the Mefo-bill economy as if that could have been sustained. Compare the real-world Japanese economic miracle. That nation was not stagnant in defeat, so why would it be stagnant in victory? It isn’t a credible meditation on the idea of the Allies losing WW2, but the more colourful aspects are entertaining.

References here: Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (1979), “Red Star, Winter Orbit” (1983).

text fiction