Theme: Nazis / WWII Germany

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

The Simulacra published 1964

Set in 2041. I never realized, before I started reading a lot of PKD books back to back to back, how fascinated he is with Nazis and World War II Germany. Three of the last five books I read (this one, The Penultimate Truth and Lies, Inc) dealt with Nazi Germany in some way.

The Simulacra
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Dick threw nearly everything he could think of into this one. The main storyline has an concept similar to The Penultimate Truth involving a simulacrum of the President, although the rest is stuffed with multiple subplots that include psionics, Neanderthals and an attempt to cure Hitler by sending a psychoanalyst back in time.

This novel has a million characters to keep track of, but the anxiety-causing commercials that buzz around like flies, used-car salesman who sell jalopies that travel to Mars and primitive alien life forms used on Earth as components in recording devices are all great.

The conclusion focuses on the least interesting subplot as a group of Neanderthals called chuppers from some different branch of the evolutionary tree gather around a television and watch as Homo sapiens destroy themselves in a war. The few Homo sapiens in the room with them have the grim realization this is the moment the chuppers have been waiting for. Just short of a classic as it doesn’t all come together in the end.

Cast of characters

  • Richard Kongrosian – a Soviet pianist who plays Brahms and Schumann with his mind
  • Dr. Egon Superb – a psychoanalyst
  • Bertold Goltz – head of the Neo-nazi group Sons of Job
  • Wilder Pembroke – commissioner of the National Police
  • Rudolf Kalbfleisch – the current der Alte. A simulacrum
  • Nicole Thibodeaux– the First Lady. Has a stature greater than the president in their matriarchal society
  • Emil Stark – Prime Minister of Israel
  • Janet Raimer – Chief White House talent scout
  • Garth McRae – Assistant State Secretary
  • Harold Slezak – White House A & R secretary
  • Hermann Göring – founder of the Gestapo, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s successor in World War II
  • Vince Strikerock – works for Karp u. Sohnen
  • Chic Strikerock – brother of Vince. Works for Frauenzimmer Associates.
  • Julia Applequist– ex-wife of Vince Strikerock
  • Maury Frauenzimmer – Chic’s boss. Owner of Frauenzimmer Associates
  • Felix and Anton Karp – father and son owners of Karp u. Sohnen
  • Ian Duncan – aimless member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Al Miller – Ian Duncan’s former friend and jug band partner. Works for Loony Luke’s jalopy business
  • Patrick Doyle – skypilot for the Abraham Lincoln apartments
  • Edgar Stone – scheming member of the Abraham Lincoln apartment building
  • Nat Flieger – works at Electronic Musical Enterprise
  • Jim Planck – employee of EME
  • Leo Dondoldo – owner of EME
  • Molly Dondoldo – Leo’s daughter

Other things to know

  • USEA – United States of Europe and America
  • McPhearson Act – outlaws the practice of psychoanalysis in favor of drug therapy
  • der Alte – German for “the old man.” The president. Has been a simulacrum for the last fifty years
  • Karp und Sohnen Werke – German for Karp and Sons. Built the Kalbfleisch simulacrum
  • the Ges – Geheimnisträger. The upper social class. Possessors of the secret that der Alte is a simulacrum
  • the Bes – Befehlträger. The lower social class
  • Frauenzimmer Associates – simulacra construction company
  • von Lessinger equipment – used for time travel

The Penultimate Truth published 1964

The Penultimate Truth is set in 2025, thirteen years after the end of World War III. Most of the population though believes the war is still ongoing and lives below ground. The war, between the Wes-Dem countries and the Russians of Pac-Peop, was fought mostly by two factions of leadies, autonomous robots that can survive the radiation from the nuclear fallout of the atomic weapons.

The Penultimate Truth
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Those who live below ground build leadies for the U.S. war effort. Above ground, in large estates in areas of the U.S. no longer contaminated by radiation, live the Yance-men. They are responsible for continuing to propagate the lie, for those trapped underground, that the war still continues.

This is a dense book with some heavy world-building and quite a few twists and turns. We have a precog as well as some kind of time manipulation that isn’t exactly time travel, although it isn’t explained too well either. The story tends to suffer as it splits its focus among Joseph Adams, Nicholas St. James, and Webster Foote who are all broadly similar in the way of a lot of Dick’s leading men.

Part of the book is a sly commentary by Dick on the world of publishing. He sets the Agency at 580 Fifth Avenue, New York City, the address of his real-life literary agent at the time. The Yance-men, hacks who spread lies to the general population, feed their speeches to the Megavac 6-V, a computer that alters and then disseminates them through the Yancy simulacrum to the tankers. Dick is identifying as one of these Yance-men, in particular Joseph Adams, who has a crisis of confidence after he encounters the brilliant speechwriter Dave Lantano.

Cast of characters

  • Joseph Adams – works for the Agency. Speechwriter for Yancy
  • Nicholas St. James – President of Tom Mix
  • Stanton Brose – Minister of Interior. More artiforg than man
  • Dave Lantano – a Yance-man and speechwriter who acquires the land above Tom Mix near Cheyenne
  • Webster Foote – a precog who runs a PI agency
  • Talbot Yancy – the Protector / political and military leader on the surface. Turns out he’s a simulacrum programmed by the Megavac 6-V computer… or is he?
  • Louis Runcible – an architect. Builds the conapts to house those who return above ground from the ant tanks
  • Dale Nunes – Political Commissioner of Tom Mix. Human link between the underground and the Estes Park Government above ground
  • Maury Souza – chief mechanic in Tom Mix. Dies from pancreatitis
  • Vern Lindblom – Agency artist. Constructs the models of U.S. cities and later the artifacts planted in Runcible’s dig site in Utah
  • Dr. Carol Tigh – head of the Tom Mix clinic
  • Rita St. James – Nicholas’s wife
  • Marshal Harenzany – top Pac-Peop military leader
  • General Holt – Wes-Dem military leader

Other things to know

  • Tom Mix – the name of the World War III antiseptic subsurface communal living tank established in June of 2010. These underground “ant tanks” produce leadies for the surface. Tom Mix was a silent movie star in Westerns from the early 1900s
  • Wes-Dem – the Western Democracies
  • Pac-Peop – the Soviets
  • Leadies – robots originally built to fight WWIII
  • Recon Dis-In Council – A group of leadies that form the high court of the world, above both Wes-Dem and Pac-Peop, located in Mexico City/Amecameca
  • Webster Foote, Limited – London-based planetwide private police investigation agency
  • Artiforgs – Arti-Gan Corporations plastic artificial organs