The world of The man in the high castle
It is 1962, 15 years after the Allies were vanquished by the Axis forces. America was split between the Japanese Empire and the German Reich. And between these two empires is a region known as the Rocky Mountain States. This is the final vestige of the old United States of America, and individuals in this area are still more or less free as they were in the past. In a sense, the globe became bipolar, with Japan on one side and Germany on the other. These wartime partners are now rivals, just as the USSR and the US are in our era. The distinction is that whereas in our timeframe, the USSR and the US were about on the same technical level, Japan falls behind Germany by a decade or more in The Man in the High Castle. The Nazis have produced a plethora of technical wonders and wunderwaffen, and they even travel to distant worlds and utilize rockets to move between continents. Nonetheless, the Reich appears very unstable; Reichskanzler Bormann dies, and now Nazi big-shots compete for power and this threatens the survival of the Japanese Empire.
The majority of the action however occurs in the Japanese Pacific States and the Rocky Mountain States. In the JPS the Japanese rule over the Americans. They achieve this through the use of a puppet administration in Sacramento, the Kempeitai, a covert and military police force, and regular military personnel. The JPS seems a peaceful place that is ruled by harsh law and order. The Japanese however act quite superior, and they seem like the white supremacist of our world, they occupy most high posts and it is socially unacceptable to mix races. Nonetheless, the tale concentrates on average people going about their daily lives; there is no big goal, simply people being people in a fascinating setting.
So the tale is situated in this environment, yet there are certain things that are also intriguing. The main protagonists often refer to two books throughout the tale. The I Ching, also known as The Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese divination book and one of the earliest Chinese classics. It is a divination book that predicts the future’s good, terrible, awful, and lucky outcomes.
The grasshopper lays heavily is the title of the second book. This is a fictitious book that only exists in this book, however it is an alternate history book in which the Allies triumphed. As a result, it’s sort of like The Man in the High Castle in that alternate universe. However, this is not the reality we live in today. It’s a novel set in an alternate history within a novel set in an alternate history. When the main characters read sections and chapters of the book The grasshopper lies heavily, the reader sees snippets of this world. As a result, it’s a strange sensation.
The Japanese Pacific States and Rocky Mountain States
The story starts with Robert Childan, an antiquarian in the JPS-controlled city of San Francisco. He distributes American antiquities to Japanese collectors through his company, American Artistic Handcrafts Inc., and it immediately becomes clear that the Japanese are particularly fond of American antiquities from the frontier and Civil War periods. Childan is Caucasian, making him a second-class citizen in his own nation. He frequently recalls the past and marvels at the miracles achieved by other Caucasians, such as the Nazis. Throughout the tale, we follow him and observe how he transforms from a miserable servant to a staunch and patriotic American.
Another important character is Mr. Nobusuki Tagomi, a representative of a Japanese trade mission, and he is one of those Japanese collectors. He was born and raised in Japan as a Buddhist. Nowadays he works at the Nippon Times building and will shortly be met by an important industry representative from Sweden, Mr. Baynes. Tagomi anticipates that this mystery person will arrive soon and want to provide him with a genuine American antique as a sign of goodwill.
His story is intertwined with Mr Baynes’, and for better or worse, his story appears to be one of the book’s main points. This was my favorite section, because it is closely related to the situation in the German Reich and the Nazis. Although both people and several Nazis play important roles in this storyline, I feel Tagomi’s is the greatest. His character has grown tremendously. The reader may follow his journey and observe how he awakens and becomes more conscious of the wickedness in the world. He isn’t a hero, but he’s also not a villain, so he’s just another bystander like us.
Then there’s craftsman Frank Frink, a Jewish refugee from the Greater German Reich. He starts off working for a business called Wyndham-Matson, but he loses his job almost immediately. So he needs to find out how to survive, and he ultimately creates his own business; amid this struggle, he occasionally thinks of his ex-wife. She left him and relocated to Canon City in the Rocky Mountains.
Frank’s ex-wife, Juliana Frink, lives on the other side of the border in Canon City, which is located in the Rocky Mountain States near the Great Nazi Reich. She works as a Judo instructor here until one day she meets an intriguing Italian truck driver from the Reich called Joe Cinadella. Juliana and Joe become friends and decide to leave Colon City for a road trip to Denver. Juliana reads The Grasshopper Lies extensively on the journey and discusses its topic with Joe. Joe and Juliana soon dispute over the book and decide to track out the author, Hawtorn Abendsen. Abendsen lives in the High Castle, a fortress near Cheyenne; hence, Abendsen is the guy in the High Castle. But, things soon turn out not to be as they seem.
The good and the bad.
The book is extremely intriguing; it depicts regular people and how they adapted to a restructured society. It includes a lot of well written chapters and characters. Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) also incorporates Japanese cultural and historical themes into his tale. By doing so, he gives the narrative the appearance of being genuine and based in the past. For example, the usage of the I Ching, the sections about giving and collecting presents, the assassination attempt on Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), and all of the historical events and individuals that actually occurred. By doing so, Dick creates a living universe, indicating that his world-building efforts were a success.
The novel, on the other hand, has an open ending. As a result, the reader must conjure up his or her own conclusion. The reader must expand on what has occurred and how the characters will progress in the future. However, this gives the impression that it was incomplete. Some stories haven’t been completed yet, thus there’s a possibility of a sequel. Dick, on the other hand, never wrote one, claiming that he had to read Nazi diaries and conduct extensive research for his world and narrative. He stopped writing a sequel because everything he read was too nasty and awful for him. Nonetheless, he claims that an open ending has always been his intention.
Nonetheless, the plot fits well with other alternate history games, novels, and movies. It, for example, shows some similarity to Fatherland, a novel published by Robert Harris (1957) in 1992. Like The man in the High Castle, Fatherland is also set in the 1960s, and the Nazis also won the war, but America is not divided between Japan and Germany, and Hitler remains in power.
Aside from the literature, there is also the Wolfenstein video game franchise. This is a shooter, thus it’s far more brutal than both The Man in the High Castle and Fatherland. Nonetheless, the Nazis won the war, and one can experience the weirdness and scientific and technological horrors of the Nazis if they had won the war.
So, in conclusion, I can say that the book is beautifully written, the world building is amazing, and the tale has some intriguing plot twists. So, yeah, read it and attempt to figure out how you would have responded if it had been our reality.
The Man In The High Castle (1962)
Written by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
288 pages, Orion Publishing Group LTD.