Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels discussion

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Monthly Reading: Discussion > August 2018 "The Man in the High Castle" Discussion <No Spoilers>

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message 1: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Group read #13


message 2: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new)

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
I actually read this book not to long ago. All I can say is, I'm not a big fan of Philip K Dick...which genuinely bugs me. I enjoy so many of the movies inspired by his books (Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Blade Runner...) but there is just something about his writing that I can't get behind.

I'm hoping that when everyone starts finishing this book, they can point out some things about it that will help me appreciate it more. I have a feeling Art is going to like it if for no other reason than the strong Japanese tone and references.


message 3: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Frankly, I am trying an audio version of this novel and I must say it doesn't captivate me as much as when I read it years ago. I'm planning on trying to pick up from where I stopped listening and finish reading it in a regular manner, see if it will be any better.

P.K.D is a true master of the written word, I remember rereading some sentences twice, simply enjoying every word. I will let you know the result of my little experiment.


message 4: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
It might be due to the fact that I'm very inexperienced when it comes to audio books, but this book is not an easy one to listen to. I found that reading the same chapter I earlier listened to was so much more rewarding. I would have trouble attributing this fact to any one particular thing, but it seemed to me that I might have failed to appreciate some of the finer details in certain passages of that chapter; a word here, a phrase there and the mood and the setting gets so much richer, vivid.

But then again, I repeat, it all might be due my to my own inadequate experience with audio books.


message 5: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (last edited Aug 09, 2018 07:17AM) (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
Art, it might not be you having a problem due to inexperience, though Brian would be the expert in this area. But I have found that some books are just read better than others. I was listening to one here recently where this lady just . . . I don't know . . . I would just tune her out. I felt as if she was going too fast or something

The Magicians trilogy is good to listen to, IMHO. Also, Will Patton, an actor, read 4 Stephen King books, Dr. Sleep and the three book series starting with Mr. Mercedes. He is great to listen to. He's so good I might go look to see what other audio books he has done.


I also listened to Harry Potter in the car, but I had already read it, so maybe it doesn't count. Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld also struck me as being well done at the time. Some of the Heinlein juveniles were good too. I get the CD's at the library, usually.

My real problems with listening to audio books are,
1) remembering who people are. I often have trouble with this even in real books. Try not to pick a book with a lot of characters introduced all at once! and
2) I will suddenly find myself not paying attention


message 6: by Allan (new)

Allan Phillips | 1932 comments Mod
I agree that certain types of books work better than others on audio. As I've said before, 8 hour books are better for me than 18 hour; my short ride to work is when I listen, so it's in snippets and it's easier to stay attuned with a shorter story. A huge, heavy, more technical, more involved story would not work well for me. I've been sticking pretty much to short sci-fi classics.


message 7: by Cordelia (new)

Cordelia (anne21) | 53 comments I think that there is something about this text that would be difficult for audio books. Dick has written much of text in a Japanese type fashion, where the vowels have been omited. This makes it sound like the way Japanese people speak in both their own language and in English.

I think I would find this difficult to follow in an audio. I found that when I read it my eyes and brain sort of compensated and smoothed this out, making it easier to read.


message 8: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Besides all of the fine points that have been made, I also believe that whenever you are reading one of his novels it is not enough just getting the gist of what transpires. You miss a single adjective, skip half a sentence and you lose the true meaning of what is being said.

On top of that, there's word play and what Cordelia mentioned earlier. There's just too many things going on at the same time, that I for one am not capable to follow with an audio book.


message 9: by Cordelia (new)

Cordelia (anne21) | 53 comments I envy people who can listen to audio books. I cant. I find myself drifting off and thinking of other things; then have to go back and find my place again.

I fact, the only way I can Read in on paper - that is books.


message 10: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Aug 10, 2018 04:01AM) (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "I actually read this book not to long ago. All I can say is, I'm not a big fan of Philip K Dick...which genuinely bugs me. I enjoy so many of the movies inspired by his books (Scanner Darkly, Minor..."

I believe that this novel in particular recieves such mixed reviews because it really isn't classic science fiction. Speculative fiction is an acquired taste and though P.K.D is a wonderful writer, many find some of his work if not boring, then without any compelling point.


message 11: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (last edited Aug 10, 2018 07:56PM) (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
I haven't tried anything by PKD in years. I started with him because I did like one. I can't remember its name, but I do remember some things about it, amazing for me because I don't remember books well, usually. Then I read some more of his books, and yes, they seemed boring, so I quit.

Now that I know more about writing it's clear why I was not and still am not too nutz about this one. It's all internal exposition to explain what's going on in the world. I sure hope something happens soon! I'm at 13%


message 12: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Have a chapter or two to go with this book and I'm far from being in a hurry to finish it, I enjoy reading it even though for the life of me I cannot see the sci-fi angle in it.

The first time I read it was back when I was still living in Japan, I loved it though it never crossed my mind that it belonged to the genre. In any case Bryan was right about book having solid Japanese references, P.K.D. managed to forsee the future and the "boom" which propelled Japan to become world's second-largest economy some time in the late 60s. Japanese businessman are captured impeccably, other characters are also far from being dull, Childan especially is a colorful character and at times you don't know whether to root for him or skip pages in disgust.


message 13: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
I think that alternate realities have always been considered acceptable in the SF genre, Art. I think that's why it's considered SF.


message 14: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (last edited Aug 14, 2018 05:52AM) (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "I think that alternate realities have always been considered acceptable in the SF genre, Art. I think that's why it's considered SF."

In all fairness there's plenty of alternate reality novels that clearly belong to the genre, but in this book there isn't really that necessary (to me)medium of either science and technology or even E.T. which allows the events to take place. Even if science & technology is not the actual catalyst for the change, then its presence still ought to be influential enough for the characters of that story (think 1984, Fahrenheit 451)

I just didn't get any of the vibe in The Man in the High Castle, the only aspect of the book was "sci-fi"y was the oracle, but even that is an actual existing thing.


message 15: by Antti (new)

Antti Värtö (andekn) | 750 comments I think the term Kateblue was looking for us "alternate history". Although I think it should be considered a genre of its own, it is indeed usually considered a sub-genre of science fiction... for some reason or another. But at least I'd expect everyone agrees it can be called "speculative fiction".


message 16: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new)

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
I couldn't agree with Antti and Art more. It's a story that I would suspect a group of philosophical historians would enjoy. It doesn't have anything to do with fantasy or sci-fi, other than it was written by a known sci-fi author.

I was very underwhelmed and kind of annoyed when I read this book. So much hype for...nothing...in my opinion. It could have easily been a story of an American that moved to Japan.


message 17: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
Annti, you are right. I meant alternate histories. And I am thinking I may stop reading this book. I keep not wanting to read it. Bad sign.


message 18: by Antti (new)

Antti Värtö (andekn) | 750 comments I'm surprised to see so many negative impressions; MitHC is my favourite PKD book (well, tied with VALIS, actually).

I really liked the stifling atmosphere of the book. The feeling of things being wrong; of being stranger in your own land; like the rules have changed, and the new rules are unfair and somewhat incomprehensible.

But then again I *am* a History major, so I have a soft spot for alt-history.


message 19: by Bryan, Village Idiot (new)

Bryan | 481 comments Mod
Antti wrote: "...But then again I *am* a History major..."

HA! I knew it! lol

Just messing with you, I get what you are saying about the stifling atmosphere and I did like that I could feel how uncomfortable the Americans were.

Audible has a book of PKD's short stories. I might get it. I want to like PKD...I really do.


message 20: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
Yes, I want to like PKD, too. But that may not happen, even though I can admire him.

I remember now, the PKD book I liked was "A Scanner Darkly." which lead me to buy and attempt this and several other books of his. My recollection of these other books, including this one, is nil. All I know is that they caused me to be sorry I had bought them and to decide not to read any more PKD.

Yet here I am again.

(Right now, though, I am reading a fantasy that I am liking much better than this book. It's called "Splintered" and is the first book of the Splintered Series by A. G. Howard. Yes, it is kind of a teenage fantasy where the main character is a descendant of Alice in Wonderland, but I am still really liking it, plus it is due back to the library shortly. So have fun, all. I have to read this first)

I think you guys just all like more grown up books than I do.


message 21: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (last edited Aug 16, 2018 01:31PM) (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
Just after writing that last, I read this on the internet:

I have a very strong belief that reading should be an act of love, of joy, of willing discovery. That when we force someone across the wrong literary threshold, we risk turning them away instead of ushering them through.

V.E. Schwab lecture on fantasy literature.
https://www.tor.com/2018/08/13/in-sea...

That really resonated with me, SO, . . . probably done with this book. (I'm at 19%)


message 22: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 649 comments Kateblue wrote: "Just after writing that last, I read this on the internet:

I have a very strong belief that reading should be an act of love, of joy, of willing discovery...."


Absolutely. In books that you read for pleasure (as opposed to those you need to read for some other reason) there is no reason to continue if you don't like it.

This is another book I read long ago, so will not re-read. Not my favorite PKD at all. Just not weird enough.

One thing I recall reading back then was that whenever a character consults the I Ching in the book, PKD would consult it in real life, and the results would influence the direction of the plot.

I don't remember where I read that and do not know how true it is. I do know from a biography of him that he really was interested in the I Ching at that time in his real life.

One idea in this book appears in multiple of his other books: the idea that there can be multiple realities and it may be possible to move between them, and that the reality we find ourselves in may be a trick, and not the "real" reality. Fun idea for fiction. Terrible when you start believing it.


message 23: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 3479 comments Mod
I started it yesterday. I actually read he Russian translation like two decades ago, don't remember much. Now it does resonate with me bearing in mind that right now part of my homeland is occupied by Russia


message 24: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (last edited Aug 31, 2018 10:10AM) (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
Hi, Ed. I never saw your post from 10 days ago. So interesting about I Ching. I used to have an I Ching book (mandatory book for all hippies' bookshelves) I wonder what happened to it? Most of my books died in a mold invasion of my mom's house, but this one--probably got loaned out and never returned.

I found the I Ching to be too cryptic. If I recall. I've slept since then.

And multiple realities. I do love that idea, but wouldn't all realities be equally real? Does man in High Castle actually discuss this?


message 25: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
New subthread --

Has anyone watched the Amazon series? I watched the first episode some time ago, then life intervened. It seemed so dark and dreary that I did not put it first on my list to continue.

But when I was reading, I thought that the book seemed to accentuate different people and parts of the world.


message 26: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 3479 comments Mod
Kateblue wrote: "New subthread --

Has anyone watched the Amazon series?"


I watched (more correctly got it for my ma to try to widen viewer's experience) first three episodes or so but after (view spoiler) mam said it was not her cup of tea. Surprising, bearing in mind that she was quite ok w/ Breakin Bad or Narcos


message 27: by Kateblue, 2nd star to the right and straight on til morning (new)

Kateblue | 3667 comments Mod
Hm . . . well, I guess it just depends upon the show. I have never been interested in Breaking Bad. Subject matter seems grim. Maybe I should try it.


message 28: by Ed (new)

Ed Erwin | 649 comments Kateblue wrote: "wouldn't all realities be equally real?..."

Not necessarily. Some of his books, probably the Valis ones, suggest that the reality we see around us now is a lie created by Satan. The real world [created by God] is actually still happening in AD 72 or thereabouts, and if enough of us learn to see through the lies we can bring the real reality back. That stuff is inspired by Gnostic Christianity, though I'm sure PKD added his own twists.

Also some [many?] of his stories have fake worlds created by some characters and lived-in by other characters.

It seems to me that the principal theme of PKD's work is to ask the question "How do you know what is real?"

PS: I watched one season of High Castle. Liked it, but there are so many other things to watch that I haven't gotten back to it. Currently binging "The Good Place", which also keeps playing around with your assumptions of what is real or not real. Last night I watched the Hugo-winning episode "The Trolley Problem". That was bloody [literally] good fun.


message 29: by Allan (new)

Allan Phillips | 1932 comments Mod
Kate, Breaking Bad can be grim but it's an amazing exercise in dark comedy. It's intense and gripping - I could only watch a couple episodes a night, or I'd have strange, vivid dreams. What I found most amazing about it was that they continued to completely blow your mind episode after episode. When you think it can't get wilder, you quickly learn you're mistaken. I haven't seen ANY other show ever that has done that.


message 30: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 3479 comments Mod
Back to PKD - a general question - were Japanese atrocities known when the book was written? Because it seems to set 'good' Japanese against 'bad' Germans


message 31: by Art, Stay home, stay safe. (new)

Art | 2551 comments Mod
Oleksandr wrote: "Back to PKD - a general question - were Japanese atrocities known when the book was written? Because it seems to set 'good' Japanese against 'bad' Germans"

They were, however I don't think that this novel was intended to pass any judgment on either of the nationalities. I suppose it was the exercise of thinking through the alternate history that was the most curious to PKD.


message 32: by Oleksandr, a.k.a. Z (new)

Oleksandr Zholud | 3479 comments Mod
Art wrote: "They were, however I don't think that this novel was intended to pass any judgment on either of the nationalities"

I'm not talking about judging, only that in the book Japanese protect Jews (important story-wise) on humanitarian grounds. The same Japanese, who are guilty in Nanjing massacre or killing all males in Manila...
It is possible that divergence from 'our reality' is before WWI - it is said that "The U.S. was on the decline ever since World War One. Every country on the Allied side was ruined in that war, morally and spiritually"
Both Italy and Japan were on Allied side in our world


message 33: by LuthienDillon (new)

LuthienDillon | 24 comments Still haven't finished the book, but I intend to read it completely. It had me at 'I Ching".
But then, my studies did indeed involve quite a bit of history... lol.


message 34: by LuthienDillon (new)

LuthienDillon | 24 comments Ed wrote: "Kateblue wrote: "Just after writing that last, I read this on the internet:

I have a very strong belief that reading should be an act of love, of joy, of willing discovery...."

Absolutely. In b..."


And from what I know about the author's biography, he actually believed reality wasn't real at times.


message 35: by Kalin (new)

Kalin | 635 comments In the end, this was the book I decided to read for January's "catch up" month. It's short (I didn't have much time) and I've been interested in trying the TV series for awhile, but wanted to read the book first. In the end, I found it pretty bland as a story. Here's my GR review:


I'm giving this a generous three stars. The Man in the High Castle was by all accounts an astounding work of alternate history when first published, but I honestly found it to be pretty dull. It's a relatively short novel (by 21st century SFF standards) at 274 pages, but there is an ensemble cast of characters that each get a sliver of that overall page count to tell their story. As a result, I didn't feel like there was much depth to their arcs. Various characters navigate life in the Japan-controlled Pacific States of America after the Axis Powers emerge victorious in WWII. Lots of racism and genocide in the overall worldbuilding. The plot was very slow to get off the ground, and the only major world-shaking conflict appeared about 70% into the book. Everything before that didn't much captivate me. I mean, in a hypothetical world where the Nazis control the world, a major plot thread about two guys going into business together crafting jewellery just seems... trite, inconsequential. I felt like there was a disconnect between the global questions raised and the local lives explored.


message 36: by TomK2 (new)

TomK2 (thomaskrolick) | 309 comments I only read the book because I enjoyed the television series. This happens frequently with PKD works, a modern updating is fantastic, the original work only becomes good or better because you have the background of the updated movie. I avoided The Man in the High Castle for decades. I generally do not like alternative history fiction. If I had read the book before the tv series, I think I would have DNF. When High Castle was published, very few people would have been knowledgeable in quantum theory, and alternative universes were not a sci fi trope. I was excited to read it because I expected the first example of a sci fi author "getting" quantum physics. Unfortunately, that was not really part of the novel. It can be there if you want it to be, I suppose, if the I Ching is seen as an allegory for alternative universes. However, I did like the book because it was the foundation for the video version. The plot, the characters, the ideas were all there in the book. It just took a modern update where film evidence of a different world are found instead of print, and quantum research with alternative universes, to really make the story good. And the update would not have occurred or even been possible without PKD writing the book in the first place decades earlier.

So, on its own, I would have given it a low rating or DNF. With the tv series as a backdrop, I rate it higher.


message 37: by Kalin (new)

Kalin | 635 comments So even if I found the book kind of meh I should still give the series a shot?


message 38: by TomK2 (last edited Feb 06, 2021 06:24PM) (new)

TomK2 (thomaskrolick) | 309 comments Kalin wrote: "So even if I found the book kind of meh I should still give the series a shot?"

I think you should! And since it is over, you can binge watch it!

I think of the tv series as similar to other PKD updates like in Minority Report, Paycheck, Blade Runner, and Total Recall. Even if the video version is not totally to your taste, book and video will compliment each other well. I only liked the book because I was already into the tv series a season or two.

edit: and you should get a laugh out the American reaction to the theme song. "Edelweiss" was written for "The Sound Of Music" by Jewish composers, but because it is the theme song for the High Castle tv series, Americans thought it was the Nazi National Anthem or something like that. It got played by the Marine Band in the White House one day and people went nuts. LOL.


message 39: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Wheaton | 169 comments Well, not all Americans. Many of us actually attend musical theater productions and watch movies made before 2015.


message 40: by TomK2 (last edited Feb 06, 2021 10:48PM) (new)

TomK2 (thomaskrolick) | 309 comments Cynthia wrote: "Well, not all Americans. Many of us actually attend musical theater productions and watch movies made before 2015."

I actually had to google the song when I started watching the tv series. I recognized the melody, but could not quite make out all the words as it was sung for High Castle. If not for my curiosity, I would not have connected it to "The Sound of Music." For me, Sound of Music was a distant memory. I have re-watched the movie since then, and had a greater appreciation for it than when I was a child. When I was young, "Sound of Music" and "The King and I' seemed to be televised and promoted with equal enthusiasm! Musicals after that killed my interest in the genre. And forget theater, bad things happened to people who ventured into NYC when I was young, and I never got over that.


message 41: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Wheaton | 169 comments I worked backstage on a production of Sound of Music at Christmastime about three years ago. After you hear the entire show live 8 times a week for 4 weeks, you never forget any of the songs!


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