Theme: Alternate History

The Man in the High Castle published 1962

The Man in the High Castle is a book I admire more than enjoy reading. I reread it thinking I missed something when I read it years ago, but I felt almost the same about it the second time through.

The premise, where Dick imagines a world where the Axis powers won World War II, is certainly interesting. And the novel within the novel, where an author (the titular man in the high castle) has written a book about the Allies winning the war, is a great reversal of this idea. The characters though didn’t click with me, and the conflicts between the quarreling factions of the Reich felt more studious than exciting. I’m in the minority here. Most consider The Man in the High Castle to be one of Dick’s masterworks.

The Man in the High Castle
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We find out at the end that the author Abendsen plotted the entirety of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy by consulting the I Ching. Evidently, Dick made heavy use of the I Ching while writing The Man in the High Castle, although not to the extent of his stand-in. Dick won the Hugo Award for this in 1963 after which he finally gave up on his mainstream aspirations and threw himself headfirst into his sci-fi career.

Cast of characters

  • Robert Childan – owner of American Artistic Handcrafts
  • Mr. Tagomi – a Japanese trade official in San Francisco
  • Frank Frink – Jewish metalworker who loses his job at W-M Corporation and starts a jewelry business
  • Wyndam-Matson – owns a metalworking factory
  • Juliana Frink – Frank’s ex-wife. Lives in Colorado
  • Joe Cinnedella– a Nazi out to assassinate Abendsen. Undercover as an Italian truck driver
  • Mr. Baynes – the alias of Rudolph Wegener, a member of the Abwehr, posing as a Swede who works for the Reich in plastics.
  • Ed McCarthy – Frink’s jewelry business partner
  • Hawthorne Abendsen – author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy
  • Shinjiro Yatabe – the alias of the Japanese General Tedeki
  • Hugo Reiss – the Reichs Consul in San Francisco
  • Kreuz vom Meere – chief of the SD in the PSA
  • Martin Bormann – in TMITHC he becomes the Reich Chancellor until his death. The following are jockeying to take his place:
    • Goring – founded the Gestapo and built up the Luftwaffe. He also shows up in the time travel plot of The Simulacra
    • Goebbels – Nazi Minister of Propaganda
    • Heydrich – career man with the SS. Deputy to Himmler. Drafted the “Final Solution”
    • Baldur von Schirach – former head of Hitler Youth
    • Dr. Seyss-Inquart – former Austrian Nazi. Possibly the most hated man in Reich territory

Other things to know

  • Sicherheitsdienst – SD. The intelligence agency of the SS
  • Abwehr – German military intelligence organization