Philip K. Dick, 1962
A weird time in which we are alive. We can travel anywhere we want, even to other planets. And for what? To sit day after day, declining in morale and hope.Philip K. Dick
The first book I read by Philip Kindred Dick was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? My first taste of Kafkaesque science fiction. I fell into an easy phase, but always ignored The Man in the High Castle. It’s one of his major titles and earned him a couple of awards, but its synopsis sounded like a dated “what-if”, a stoner naval gaze from yesteryear. Perhaps a decade later I had another sci-fi craving and decided to stop being so pretentious.
Like all of Dick’s writing, the story is plot and concept-driven. It feels more like a story being explained than told. In short, it reads like most 20th-century science fiction. Asimovian. The scope is everything its synopsis claims, a WWII what-if. But the book has a cleverness beyond its genre. In the book, there is a book, subversive and outlawed, “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,” presenting a what-if world to the what-if world of the novel. The I Ching is not only a plot mover in the book, with characters utilizing it to guide their decisions, the I Ching was also used by Dick to craft the themes and storyline.
The work is standard for its author but unique for its genre. It’s worth a read because it’s an easy one. A daily reader could clear this in a week. The what-if isn’t too heavy-handed, and it becomes secondary in the depths of the story’s philosophical observations. Though it sounds like a basic junk food dystopian novel, its social analysis is transcendent. Heavily Jungian, the themes revolve around the fragility of the modern mind in discerning what is real and what is a construction of one’s personal ego.
They want to be the agents, not the victims, of history. They identify with God’s power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. They are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate — confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.Philip K. Dick
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