Friday, November 27, 2015

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Alright, even though I consider myself an avid science fiction reader, I really didn't know much about Philip K Dick. When the Man in the High Castle show was advertised on youtube to premier on Amazon, I was super excited.... and unaware that it was a book before. My darling husband informed me that this was the same author who wrote the book that inspired Blade Runner with Harrison Ford. 

Always finding opportunities to review book and then make the ultimate comparison, I hurriedly bought the book and dove into reading it before the premier of the show. Now, Amazon released the first 2 episodes of Man in the High Castle in their competition with Netflix and AKA Jessica Jones and I loved it! I was really excited to read the book and see the differences and similarities. PKD wrote tons of books and I think a few more were made into movies. 

The book was written in the 1960s, 20 years after the end of WWII. PKD took that concept and flipped it on it's head. He changed the outcome and posed the question, 'how would the world look if Germany and Japan won the war?' However, his focus wasn't on world building, or setting up a straight protagonist to uncover the truth... or have a traditional plot of any sort. He creates a few characters and uses them to view Americanism if the Allies had not won WWII. What is America if Germany and Japan won the war? 

I think it's a really cool concept and the parts where he discusses (casually through dialogue and inner thought monologues) how the word has changed (Nazis have dried out the Mediterranean, brutally conquered Africa and built rocket ships to Mars for instance) and it was easily the most fascinating parts of the book. However, I found myself waiting to get to the exciting plot points and I found myself frustrated when PKD focused on Childan and Tagomi (for most of the book, until the exciting parts where they discovered parts of themselves and revealed their true character in times of crisis) but up until then, I found myself rolling my eyes and using the "hurry up" gesture when I read their portions. 

The character Juliana, I feel, was used to drive the ultimate story to completion and doesn't stand alone as a character. She stumbles, like Tagomi, onto the book within the book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, where the plot of that book is our timeline and the Allies won the war. At first, other characters view Juliana through their lens (Joe Cinnadella, Frank Frink) and have some very anti woman thoughts about her. They view her as sort of a manic pixie dream girl. She's unstable, quirky, unable to guide her own life and exist for the purpose of men. Despite their thoughts about her, they are still drawn towards her and still are incredibly attracted to her. 

PKD then introduce her own POV, and it seems like what other people perceive of her is actually true. She is aimless, unstable and casual. She relies on Joe, who reveals himself to not be an Italian truck driver, to give her a good time, and goes off with him to a strange place to meet the author of the book. Then there is a switch, or a few switches that happen, Juliana falls apart, and then Juliana, after her conversation with Abelson, becomes cool and calm. I'm not sure if her character development is more realistic, or less. It felt to me that Juliana's decisions was based on what PKD needed to finish the story, not because it was genuine to her character development. 

I think this book is good for those that enjoy exploring those philosophical questions of the "What If?" I also enjoy those "What If?" questions, but I feel like I would have enjoyed this book more if there was much more direction. I also wanted to find out more of what the Nazis, and the Japanese did after the war. How did the world look? I wanted to see exactly how they eradicated Africa and exterminated all the Jews in the world. I wanted to read about the new world order, and maybe a deeper insight of how the changeover of the Third Reich would happen, and more political drama instead of the Baynes and Yatabe secret meeting and fall out. 

It's probably me being a book series supporter, but the kind of information, and the wealth of world building potential in this book would look great as a book series. Maybe each person has their own book? Maybe each book takes on someone new stationed in a place, like Africa, or even on a rocket ship to Mars, and discusses the implications of that life? That maybe the book, Grasshopper Lies Heavy is found, they read it, and go on their own journey of discovery? 

I'm excited to see where they take the show. I'm not sure if I will read another PKD book, but then again, I did watch Blade Runner. 

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