Man in the High Castle- Philip K. Dick

Hello everyone, and Happy Easter!

I want to apologize quickly for 2 things:

1: It’s the 4th of April and I’m behind on posting. (Grandparents’ house + no WiFi = useless laptop)

2: This is not the book I said I’d read next.

‘Man in the High Castle’ is not what I said I’d read next in my last review, instead it was ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’. But, for some reason, I found it incredibly difficult to get into, and I felt like I was reading because I had to rather than because I wanted to, which is something I HATE. So, I moved on from the wonderful Oscar Wilde into slightly darker territory- Phillip K. Dick.

If you’ve seen any of my previous posts, you’ll begin to understand my slightly unusual love for the dystopian genre, and I have reviewed a few dystopian classics (namely; ‘1984’, ‘Brave New World’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, and ‘Animal Farm’), but I haven’t read one for a while, and I’m starting to get withdrawal symptoms! So with a failed attempt at ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ behind me, I moved onto something I’ve wanted to read for a while but didn’t.

‘Man in The High Castle’ is a fabulous, terrifying, yet simple concept; the Axis powers win the Second World War. I often wonder what made Phillip K. Dick decide to write such a novel? It certainly is a fascinating concept, and one that I am very glad never had the chance to exist. Although I enjoyed ‘Man in the High Castle’, I do think that the concept attracted me more than the plot or characters, especially because at some points I was struggling to differentiate between them. But, the slightly confusing and unexplained plot was compensated by Dick’s fantastic ability to bring the weird and terrifying into life. It’s hard to truly picture a Axis victory, much less its consequences and impact on the world, but Dick’s simple yet effective language encapsulates a world too horrifying to imagine.

I think the main reason why I chose ‘Man in the High Castle’ over other novels this month was its relevance, particularly in the scandals surrounding the Labor party’s antisemitism, but more so because this month I had the privilege to travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

On the 24th March I took a day trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland, where 1.1 million people were killed by the Nazi regime, a sickening number that could have been exponentially higher if Dick’s nightmare world was a reality. I am incredibly privileged to have gone to such a place, somewhere of astounding relevance, pain, and pure madness. Even now, nearly a month later, I can barely find the words to describe my trip, especially to someone who hasn’t been. But Dick’s simplistic tone and style made his terrifying imagination horrifically accessible.

Something I particularly liked about ‘Man in the High Castle’ was the idea of a book within a book (otherwise known as meta-fiction)- ‘The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’. Dick has come up with a challenging enough read, asking what if? But he’s made it yet more complex by adding a what if? into the what if? ‘The Grasshopper Lies Heavy’ essentially tells the true story that the Allies won the war. However, there are a few changes, such as Roosevelt getting assassinated and the lack of a civil rights movement. These subtle changes really made me question the stability of our history, and our future. There is so much that hangs in the balance, and we as individuals can do very little to control that. Its strangely simultaneously comforting and terrifying to know that my future isn’t set in stone- let alone guaranteed.

In a strange way, Phillip K. Dick’s terrifying novel has made me grateful for the small stabilities in my life. I know I can wake up tomorrow and eat, some people cannot. I have the privilege of going to school, far too many do not. My house is clean and safe, my family love me, and I am healthy. These are things some people can wish for. The basic right of citizenship is denied to unprecedented numbers of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. For them, a filling meal would mean everything.

We are so lucky, yet so unaware of the ease of our lives. Even if this wasn’t the message Dick wanted to communicate, it sure is the one I’m walking away with.

Heavy post but thank you for sticking with it if you got this far! I promise we’re moving to happier lands.

I’m already cracking on with ‘How to Be an Explorer of the Universe’ to fit in with this month’s penguin challenge; “Read a book to help you explore your creativity”. As with ‘Start Where You Are’ it’s more of an activity book than a novel- lots to do and see and write about. I’m excited.

I’m also a few chapters into ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, a tale of love, betrayal and redemption, which is the next ‘proper’ review to keep your eyes peeled for.

Until then, keep reading!

Your Honest Bookworm x

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