I will admit I was introduced to the world of The Man in the High Castle via the Amazon adaption for TV rather than the book. I wasn’t even really fully aware of Philip K Dick’s wider work, because while I’m a massive science fiction fan, I’ve never been much of a reader of the genre, and I’ve never seen the other adaptations of his work.
I will say that for anyone who came across the ideas behind the story via the TV series first, and is now interested in the source material, there are quite a lot of differences – the TV series makers have certainly been very complimentary of the original material, but they have expanded upon the plots, the story world and the developed the characters differently, so don’t expect what you see on screen in the book.
However, I am whole-heartedly glad that I have read this book, because it is simply sublime. Science Fiction is normally more straight forward, in your face, fiction. The Man in the High Castle though read more like a literary novel, full of subtle nuances and gently developed characters.
I could say a lot about the plot and the story world, but for me the very best part of this book is definitely the character development. While I certainly enjoyed the story of Frank Fink and Mr Tagomi, I very much preferred the development of Robert Childan and Juliana Fink.
Juliana in the book is a very passive character, and while I’m not keen on the ways in which she is portrayed in very stereotypical slightly sexist ways, she really does step up to the mark when required to do so, and proves herself as someone that is not to be underestimated. And of all the characters reading the novel within the novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, she herself is singular in that she figures out the truth behind where the material came from and its meaning.
It is in a way a shame that Philip K Dick never managed to finish a sequel for the novel, as it would have been very interesting to not only see more of the world he created in his counterfactual history, but it would have been very interesting to see what Juliana could have done with the knowledge that the ideas behind the novel within the novel were true.
However, of all of the characters Robert Childan was most certainly my favourite, not necessarily because he is the most sympathetic of characters, but he certainly had the best epiphany about how he as an American is treated by the victors. As much as he appreciates and admires Japanese culture, and uses his country’s history to develop his connections and power, he becomes someone who is proud of the new artistic developments of his countrymen despite the Japanese disdain for it. It is one of the best character arcs that I’ve read in ages, and it was great to see an underdog, who figures out he’s an underdog no matter what he does, find something that cannot be taken away from him.
I highly recommend the book to anyone, as it is a truly fascinating read and the interconnections between the characters’ plots are subtly woven into the wider fabric of the story world. It is quite literally a masterpiece in how to interweave a story told from multi-perspectives.