The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 28 November 2015

The Man In The High Castle

Author: Philip K. Dick

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

Philip K. Dick's vision of an dystopian alternate reality in which the Axis won the second world war and entered the United States is both frightening in its realism and gripping in its telling. Dick explores the nature of reality (as he had already in early works) and whether our senses are sufficient to prove if what is around us is real.

At one point in the narrative, a discussion between two characters regarding an authentication certificate required to prove if an old artifact is genuine, parallels the story perfectly. The history of the item, nor the materials of it's making are enough to warrant it's value without a stamped piece of paper. The protagonist has found her own authentication certificate, a book of hope, which tells the story of our own reality (in which the Axis didn't win the war). Her journey to find the author of this book becomes the primary plot thread until the end. Along the way we meet various characters and visit various settings, all which add to the very errie — to close for comfort — nature of this alternate world.

The horror in Dick's dark mirror universe comes from the fact that at no point does it ever seem implausible. Unlike similar alternate realities, such as that in Alan Moore's graphic novel masterpiece Watchmen in which characters and setting are heightened, Dick doesn't coat this with anything from the realms of fantasy or science fiction as you may expect. As the reader, we are characters ourselves, looking through the looking glass at the characters who are trying to make their way through to join us and we become as keen as them to find the man in the high castle.

I found while reading this book, that despite its obvious mind bending twist on reality it was easy to follow and as ever with Dick's work, highly thought provoking. Take care to note that this isn't a holocaust story, the war is over and the American culture and identity has been altered. There is no triumph on the battlefield, no obvious antagonists (even amoung those who we would label 'the enemy') and no crescendo over a happy ending. A cult classic and a definite must read for any science fiction Philip K. Dick fan, whether it be his books or the on-screen adaptations of his work.
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