The Man in the High Castle is a hugely influential alternate history novel by Philip K. Dick, a maestro of science fiction.
The novel supposes that the World War II was won by the Axis powers, Germany and Japan. The book is set in 1962, fifteen years after the war ended, and the former United States of America are now occupied by the victorious forces. As you might imagine, these are dark times for America and the rest of the world – the few Jews who managed to survive the war are in hiding, slavery is once again legal and Eastern religion is growing rampant in the western civilization.
The book follows four intersecting plotlines, and often shifts point of view between different characters in order to let the reader see this new world from several individual perspectives.
When this novel was published, back in 1962, it marked the first time that a major writer took it upon himself to truly explore the alternate history setting. More than 50 years later, this novel remains one of the hallmarks of the entire genre.
Unlike the rest of Dick’s work, there’s not much science here; instead, the novel focuses on political intrigue and the lives of a few seemingly unimportant, small-scale characters. These people are not heroes; they’re real humans, afraid and bewildered by the circumstances around them, just struggling to get by with their lives.
It is through these fully-realized characters that Dick lets us know about the nature of our reality. It’s not a hard read either; as Dick explains even the smallest details of this alternate setting, it’s easy to be sucked up into its world. As you’re reading the novel, you’ll likely be forced to re-examine your viewpoints on philosophy, race, politics and hope.
The Man in the High Castle deserves all the accolades it was and still is getting. After all, how many other books can boast to be genre-defining?