The Man in the High Castle

200px-TheManInTheHighCastle(1stEd)I have just finished reading Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. It’s typically classed as a work of science fiction but it’s actually more a dystopia in the style of Huxley’s Brave New World, the science (in Dick’s case, transcontinental rocket flights) being incidental to a clever plot. The basic ‘what if’ conceit is that the Axis powers won a protracted Second World War and divided up the US between themselves, with American culture being subjugated and authentic American artefacts becoming collector’s items. It’s cleverly written, with lots of internal dialogue in a clipped ‘Japanese American’. The Japanese and German parts of America are uneasy neighbours and the man in the high castle of the title is an author who, against this backdrop, has written a bestselling novel whose basic ‘what if’ conceit is what if the Axis powers had lost? An excellent read.

3 Comments

  1. Similar books that might interest you:

    SS-GB by Len Deighton, set in a United Kingdom fictionally conquered and partially occupied by Germany during World War II. The novel’s title refers to the branch of the Nazi SS that controls Britain.

    Making History by Stephen Fry. The plot involves the creation of an alternate history where Hitler never existed.

  2. Martin

    08/12/2009 at 14:04

    Interesting, Conrad, thank you. In fact, in 2007 I wrote a letter to the Guardian on this topic. I listed Len Deighton’s SS-GB among others. Here is a copy of a reader’s letter responding to my letter: ‘Martin Westlake (Letters, May 12) is wrong to say that works of fiction imagining a Nazi victory go back only as far as the novel The Sound of His Horn in 1952 – or even to 1947, with Noel Coward’s play Peace in Our Time. Loss of Eden by Douglas Brown and Christopher Serpell was published in 1940 and republished, as If Hitler Comes, in 1941.’ So now you know!

  3. Martin

    08/12/2009 at 14:06

    And here are two more:

    ‘Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night, first published in 1937, is set in a future where the Nazis have controlled Europe for several centuries and the Jews are an almost forgotten and non-existent race. It is a prophetic vision and should be more widely known.
    Stefan Lewicki
    Harrogate, North Yorkshire

    We ought not to omit Philip K Dick’s Man in the High Castle (1962). The evasiveness of Dick’s characters about the details of the Nazis’ extension of the final solution to Africa make it all the more chilling.
    Bronislaw Szerszynski
    Lancaster

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