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)
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.
So there seem to be a lot of reviews saying this is a great book with a bad narrator. The narrator is indeed bad, but the book really isn't that good. I haven't read anything else by PKD, so I can't say whether this is one of his better or worse novels, but I definitely don't think it's worth reading unless you have some particular reason for doing so.
The basic story, you probably know, is that the US has lost WWII (because FDR was assassinated before taking office apparently), and now the Japanese are occupying the Pacific coast where the story takes place. There's a book-within-a-book in which someone has imagined an alternate world where the US did win the war, the possession of which is understandably a crime, and a copy of which falls into the hands of some of the main characters. One of them remarks how strange it is that no one has written such an alternate history, since it seems like such an obvious idea for a novel.
This is clearly what PKD thought, though you might have expected that after finishing this thing, he would have understood better. Like most of what he wrote, there's an idea there, but the pieces just don't come together. The story is muddled and confused, some of the pieces feel extraneous, and there's no real ending.
A stylistic point: I was irritated by Dick's need to always provide explicit motives to his characters actions. The omniscient narrator is constantly telling us what characters want and why they do things. I don't know if this is characteristic of Dick's overall body of work, but I think it's a lot of what gives this book the feel of cheap science fiction.
Amazing book which takes a good look on an alternate history. The narrator isn't as bad as people on here are claiming. It can get dry sometimes but most of these reviews make it seem you are listening to nails gliding across a chalk board. The narrator does his job decently.
In any case, I don't see how you could need your hand held for this book, Dick's prose is the essence of clarity and the narrator shouldn't throw you off to much (until he voices a female character)
Still reading it but a great take on the 'what if' scenarios
A bit dry and stilted in some areas......he should make it a career never to do a female voice ever again.
The story was interesting but it was a little bit all over the place. the narrator had a really monotone voice which made the listening experience not as enjoyable as it could have been. I will say though if you like alternate history books I would give it a listen.
on the top 20
no comment. Why spoil it for others
they were all well done
I found the intrusion of Japanese sentiments into the thinking of westerners masterful
It opened my eyes to what could have been and what will be if we don't wake up.
The actual meeting of the
Yes it did, however way too many back and forth in the story telling. (he said then he said)
It made me see how fragile our society is. This stirred a deep feeling of unease for what our future will be.
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