Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K Dick (1962),

Currently reading "The Man in the High Castle" (1962), on recommedation from IO9 and because I have the brief luxury of time.

The science fiction books and short stories of Phillip K Dick have been mined by the popular media (Hollywood, whatever that means) to create movie classics such as Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and others.


The novel "The Man in the High Castle" is a science fiction novel that though noticeably written in 1962 is ahead of the curve, as with a lot of Phillip K Dicks science fiction. It is a synchronic slice of a fictional alternative reality where Franklin D Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933 and America not developing the industrial infrastructure associated with Roosevelts "New Deal" during the Depression is unable to meet the military pressures placed on it when it enters World War 2 in 1941. This alternate 1962 world is divided into  two major power blocks with the characters predominantly in San Fransisco in the Japanese "Pacific States of America". Understanding the impact of biasis associated with hindsight, the setting is one of a hostile world changing from one where there is good made from compromise into a potential nightmarish blood bath, which with the benefit of hindsight again, must have happened elsewhere in this fictional alternate reality.

The novel is written as a number of interrelated character storylines, with three of the characters being practioners of the "I Ching". Although the influence of the I Ching in the novel seems to be more a feature of Phillip K Dicks interests, in the novel it does introduce a spiritual element and provides it with thematic connections. In many ways the novel meditates on connection, destiny, and change and seems to demonstrate the principles of the I Ching in the mechanics underlying the novels reality. The I Ching was introduced into Japan during the eighth century (Wai-ming 568 : 1998) and became part of a metaphysical component in the Neo Confucianism associated with the Tokugawa bakufu  徳川幕府 (1603 -1868) and was transformed by various scholars into a more Shinto or nativist movement over time (Wai-ming 568 : 1998) but in the context of the novel is more a feature of the authors interests and the fictional creation he is building. In my opinion.

There is a core narrative element associated with "Operation Dandelion" where some of the protagonists are attempting to diffuse a potential nuclear war amongst the power blocks and realize that the more moderate, reasonable elements in the Pan European Nazi government are responsible for backing the nightmarish genocidal plan, while the least desirable elements in the Nazi government are the ones opposing "Operation Dandelion", because they are politically unpopular and being forced to the periphery. It conveys the operations of a nightmarish bureaucratic hydra,.Phillip K Dick in researching for writing this novel read "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by (1960) William Shirer.

It could be considered as one of a series of alternative history writings that explore an Axis victory during World War II, a popular point of divergence.


Wai-ming, Ng. (1998). The I Ching in the Shinto though of Tokugawa Japan. In Philosophy East & West. Volume 48, Issue 4. Pages 568 -583.

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