The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

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In this alternate version of 1962, Roosevelt is assassinated during his first year in office which leads to the Japanese and Germans winning World War II. Germany and Japan divide the United States between them with the western US belonging to Japan and the eastern US belonging to Germany. While the Rocky Mountain states belong to Japan, they’re considered inconsequential and generally left to themselves. (Italy has a small empire in the Middle East, but generally didn’t benefit much from their alliance with Germany.)

Hitler is still alive, but incapacitated by syphilis, so he’s off screen throughout. Germany has drained the Mediterranean and turned it into farmland. They’ve put men on the moon and Mars. They committed genocide against the African continent. African Americans are once again slaves. Germany won’t share its advanced technology with Japan which creates tension. One of the characters has to keep his Jewish identity secret since concentration camps are still a thing. However, the Germans are largely in the background as most of the story takes place in the Japanese side of the country.

Americans are the colonized rather than the colonizers. The Japanese like to collect American antiques and surprisingly, most of the plot involves the antique collectors’ market with one main character selling antiques and another creating fakes. We also get the point of view of a Japanese official, a spy, and a female judo instructor.

Philip K. Dick used the I Ching to help write this novel and many of the characters in the book consult the I Ching like he did. There’s also a novel within the novel about what would have happened if the Allies had won World War II. The author of the novel within the novel wrote it using the I Ching, and the I Ching told him it would be his first successful novel. (The Man in the High Castle did indeed become Philip K. Dick’s first success.) The novel gets kind of meta towards the end. One character appears in our version of 1962 and other characters seem to realize they’re not real. I really enjoyed this one.

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