This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that first established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction, breaking the barrier between genre fiction and the serious novel of ideas. Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to awake.
©1962 Philip K. Dick; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Dick is entertaining us about reality and madness, time and death, sin and salvation....We have our own homegrown Borges." (Ursula K. LeGuin)
People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.
Yes and no. The alternate history of imagining America losing WWII and occupied by Japan and Germany is definitely worth listening to, especially given PKD's multi-faceted take on it. But the narrator was so hard to listen to that the overall answer is no. Bottom line: I wish I'd read the book myself rather than listened to the audio version.
There are a number of alternate histories that imagine an Axis victory in WWII, but I haven't read them, so I can't comment. Instead, I would compare The Man in the High Castle to the only other PKD novel I have read (so far) -- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (better known for its film version, Blade Runner). Although written as a novel of the near future, Androids is now an alternate history of our recent past (penned in 1968 and taking place in post-apocalyptic 1992, which of course never happened). Despite both novels now being somewhat dated, they are still fascinating looks at how a good writer sees the different paths we may have taken or will ultimately take.
Anything. The choice to read this book is a clipped, rushed, staccato, breathy tone makes sense -- it is meant to mimic the Japanese manner of speaking to reflect the idea that the Japanese have taken over the Western U.S. -- but it is really really hard to listen to over the span of several hours. It is the opposite of nuanced. It ruined the book for me.
Definitely. Especially as a TV series that follows the various characters even past the events in the novel into an extended story of how history is set back to rights, as depicted in the novel within the novel written by the title character. I've seen reports that both the BBC and SyFy are working on mini-series versions of the book, both EP'd by Ridley Scott, the director of Blade Runner. I'd cast Tom Hanks as Childan, Liev Schreiber as Frink, Jennifer Lawrence as Juliana, Paul Giamatti as Wyndam-Matson and Sean Bean as Baynes.
Expectations are the Heisenberg Principle of movies, books, music, etc. If you expect too much, you are open to disappointment if something doesn't live up to those expectations, and conversely, you may be pleasantly surprised if you don't expect much from something. I expected too much from this book and may have been disappointed solely on that basis. Especially since the narration was just so off-putting.
The story took a while to catch me. As is tangentially discussed in the story itself, it is more an alternative history story than a science fiction story. The characters are interesting, if sometimes their motivations seem implausible.
The voice performance definitely detracts from the story. The story itself is somewhere in the 3-4 star range, but Weiner's voice was a constant annoyance throughout.
I expected much more when I found this title on a Top 100 Sci Fi novel list. I found the narration, and the underlying writing, stilted and occasionally annoying.
At times, Philip K. Dick can write. No, I mean REALLY write. Every word useful. Descriptive. VERY old school writing. A bit stiff at times, but that's part of his charm.
I've always thought that his novel, "The Man In The High Castle" would make a great movie. Just the premise, not even the plot, almost demands it. Consider the following:
Imagine if you will, a VERY different outcome of World War Two, one in which the Nazis are utterly triumphant. America, and rest of the world are totally changed, both in purpose and significance. The Nazis reign supreme.
But, really, is this believable?
My studies at Loyola University included an extremely unappreciated and utterly fantastic course on the Third Reich and its historical significance. Trust me, or look it up yourself. There are many key junctures in World War Two that could have easily gone a different direction, one in which Nazi Germany would have won the war. Want to know more? Read up on Hitler's Chief Architech and eventual Minister of Armaments and War Production, Herr Albert Speer, in his biography, "Inside the Third Reich," and you'll agree. There were countless opportunities for Hitler to win the war, but poor decisions, Mother Nature, poorly interpreted orders, and sheer greed, to name a few, worked in the allies favor.
Do I have a point? Definitely.
This is a book about what could have EASILY happened. So much so, it's a bit scary.
The idea of this book, therefore, is very sound, and quite believable. So, is it a good read? it is, and thoughtful, because of what happens much later in the story. What is that exactly? Listen for yourself. You won't find any hints here.
For such an interesting premise, it's got all the makings for a good listen expect one. I just did not like the narrator. Some narrators take to task with gusto and originality. Not so here. This book simply BEGS for a great narrator. For example, I would have used one of my favorites, David Drummond, on this audiobook. He would have done this work justice, just as he did for Salvatore's audiobook, "The Sword of Bedwyr," a FANTASTIC listen.
So, I feel that the decision to go with Weiner instead of true top shelf talent such as Drummond hurt this audiobook.
If you count on good narration such as I do, get over it. Remember the single most important reason to get this audiobook: At times, Philip K. Dick can write.
And this is definitely one of those times.
The premise of the people living amid the ruins of the carved up US in a alternate reality where the Allies lose (never truly forming) against the Axis is interesting. In painting the picture of this world, Dick is successful, but in populating it with people that are interesting he stumbles. I struggled with was the pigeon inner monologues he uses in many of the characters. As in most Philip K Dick books, the idea is fantastic but the execution doesn't hold up. Tom Weiner does a great job with the material.
PKD's odd little alternate history reads like a precursor to Pullman's HDM trilogy. Unfortunately, the narrator, in spite of having a German last name, is woefully incompetent at pronouncing even the most obvious words (e.g. "Partei") or names (e.g. Goebbels). The least you could expect from a professional production is for some intern to do five minutes' research to look up the proper pronunciation of a dozen unfamiliar words and names.
Amongst alternate history fans there has always been debate about the role of plausibility in alternate history fiction. I've always been among those who consider a good story to be far more important than a plausible setting. This is books has become my favorite example to support that position.
Although most people group this among those "Nazis win the war" books, it really focuses more on the Japanese end of things, specifically the Japanese occupied western former US. At this point I should point out that, yes, this probably would have been impossible in real life, but most info on WWII was still classified when this book was written (and Dick did have a thing for Japanese culture, not that I blame him). And of course there's rockets and nuclear power everywhere, but hey, it was the 60s.
The novel follows a group of average people, all of whom lead very different lives, and their daily lives in this alternate world. That might not sound exciting, but it does give a great glimpse into the inner workings of this alternate world and I'm a sucker for explorations of new cultures. That isn't to say there's no plot, for there is; Japan and Germany are teetering closer to war everyday, and some of the characters are seeking the author of "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" a novel about an alternate world where Germany and Japan lose the war (but it's not quite our world, as you'll see). Then there's those characters who discover things of great cosmic significance, but if I tell you more I'll spoil some big twists.
I previously reviewed Fatherland by Robert Jordan, and I must say I prefer this novel much more. I find Dick is a much better writer than Jordan, but then he was one of the founders of New Wave Science Fiction. I can certainly say I understand why Dick is so highly regarded now, and Tom Weiner's narration was spot on.
All in all a great book. To those plausibility hounds reading this I implore you to give it a try. You might be surprised.
This book was so strangely brilliant that it grips you and holds your attention. But the writing also seemed sexist and racist.
PKD is not always easy to read aloud, and I think this book may be especially difficult due to the need for Japanese and German accents. Though the reader, Mr. Weiner, did a good job with the accents, his cadence is too much like a metronome and he tended to draw out the last word of major phrases and sentences. For examplllllle, he tends to talllllllk as if he doesn't knowwwww how to conclude a sentence on a perioooood. This drove me nuts, so almost anyone else would have been a better choice.
If you can stomach the reader, the story is great. PKD does a fantastic job of detailing the cultural nuiances when dealing with the Japanese and Germans, as well as, Americans who have lost their identity. Love the story.
There are no listener reviews for this title yet.
Report Inappropriate Content