Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Man in the High Castle

The book takes place primarily in post-World War II San Francisco. Only things are a little different than the San Francisco that we know. Most critical is the fact that it is under Japanese occupation as the "Pacific States of America". The Axis had won the war and divided up the US, with the Japanese getting the west and the Germans the east, with the middle a veritable no-man's land.

The Germans had continued their technological acumen to continue to concur the world and going further to conquer the solar system. The empire even managed to survive a single change in leadership. (Though in the novel, a second leadership change seems to show the roots of the empire's undoing.) They continued their scientific and racial experiments, which unfortunately lead to the virtual annihilation of Africa.

And this is just the background where the story is set.

One of the key protagonists is a dealer in kitschy historical American memorabilia. The Japanese are obsessed with old historical American things, whether they be old Micky Mouse watches or Colt guns. Another protagonist (who is geographically separated from his wife) had been involved in the production of "fake" historical goods and is now working on machine-engineered jewelry. His wife is in Colorado, and has a run in with a nazi hit-man who is sent to destroy a "banned-in-Germany" novelist.

The novel created by the novelist provides a "counter-counter" history. In this history, the allies won the war. However, things were not quite the same as they were in the "real" history that we know. The woman ends up killing the hitman and tells the author about her experience. The author had lived with some security, but now decides that he will just be open and take life as it happens.

Also central to the story is the "oracle", an ancient Asian work that is used to gather omen's for the future. The oracle, in fact, had "written" the novel with the "alternate" history, and had provided various omens in the course of the novel.

The story is concerned primarily with the everyday life and worries of people in the occupied America. The prominent "officials" involved tend to have some influence, yet be outside the realm of movers and shakers. This also provides a somewhat sudden ending, with the characters just continuing on with their lives in an Axis empire that may be on the verge of collapse.

The use of a novel in a counter-historical novel provides a nice means of provided an alternate view to history. How would people have alternately constructed history if the main course was different?

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