The Man in the High Castle
2.75 / 5
Lacks excitement. Expected more.
When I found this book, I was excited by the prospect of reading a book about the World if the Axis side won WWII, I thought this would be an exhilarating, exciting and intriguing book that would leave me unable to put down. However, after what seems like a month of stop-starting and drifting off I have finally finished it and I am sorry to say it, but it was the most underwhelming book I have read.
The writing style of the book was slow and technical, with a smattering of untranslated German, engineering terms and political phrases. These facets of style made the book very hard going and a laborious task. Dick delved deep into detail of many items, thoughts, issues and scenery which did not add anything to the story itself or have an effect on the reader. The technical style therefore, avoided creating any suspense, excitement or thrill, even the ending where there could have been some sort of exciting climax, there was none and the ending was plain.
There is also the matter of the “I Ching”, an old Chinese classic text containing a divination system that is used by many of the main characters, and it has some kind of cultural hegemony over the Pacific Coast of America. The various characters attempt to find an answer to a question of what they should do, or future happenings and so on through this text. They find these answers by consulting with the I Ching, through stalks, coins and paper- and somehow they are left with a hexagram that corresponds to a certain state of things, along with a message. With no prior knowledge of the I Ching, most of what I learnt was from Internet sources and this helped somewhat, but the I Ching is something I still am far away from understanding.
There are copious amounts of characters introduced, but there are 5 main characters: Nobuseke Tagomi, Juliana Frink, Frank Frink, Robert Childan and Mr Baynes. Despite extensive storylines for each of these characters, the author seemed disinterested in them and concentrated more on the state of events, rather than creating an attachment between the reader and characters. Therefore, I felt no feelings towards a single character and the ending was met with a mixture of relief, for it finally to be over, and disappointment that the grand finale was anything of the sort. The bland and affectless characters left no emotional attachment towards them whatsoever, and the way they deal with odd and tragic outcomes with just a shrug of the shoulders is bewildering and inaccurate of human nature.
The book I thought would build to a crescendo as we get closer to meeting the eponymous Man in the High Castle. Even when Dick has left the door open for a somewhat exciting conclusion through the seemingly inexplicable mistake on Juliana Frink’s part to forget to tell The Man in the High Castle a crucial piece of information. But even then that never occurs and the anger and frustration that she feels to have made the mistake is pointless as it has no bearing in this book. This I found baffling!
By the end of the book, I found that because I felt nothing for any of the characters and that I simply did not care what the outcome was, but even then, the outcome was anti-climatic and the book ended on a drab note. The book was bereft of excitement! I am not sure who I could recommend this book to, it is a combination of speculative fiction and sci-fi, but it deals a lot with I Ching, and the human psyche and internal decisions and questions that each character agonises over. But if that is your sort of thing … then go ahead!