Tag Archives: Philip K Dick

The Man in the High Castle

The Man In The High Castleby Philip K Dick

Having seen and enjoyed Amazon’s adaptation I felt I really ought to read the book it was based on. The only reason I have left it so long was that I am not exactly a fan of Philip K Dick’s work. I have read several of his works before and found them somewhat difficult to get into. I find his style sits uncomfortably with me and the plots a little lacking in substance. This may be down to poor selection on my behalf, but I can only comment on what I have read. 

The Man in the High Castle is not the first of Dick’s novels to be adapted for the screen. In fact, these adaptations have resulted in some of the most popular Sci-Fi movies of all time, so he must be doing something right.

For me, The Man In The High Castle was a little disappointing. In many ways, it was what I expected in terms of style and plot, but when compared against the TV series, it came a very poor second. All the elements are there, as are the characters, but for me, the big difference between the two, and the reason I prefer the series to the book, is the action or lack of it. The idea behind the book is a whopper – the Allies lost the Second World War and now America is split between Germany and Japan. There is a finely balanced détente between these two new superpowers that is treated by political upheavals within the Reich and the publication of a novel describing a very different world in which the German and Japanese axis lost. 

I have seen and read a number of “What if…” style books over the years and I have to say that Dick’s paints one of the most believable pictures of an alternative post-war history. The Man In The High Castle has a great plot and does a wonderful job of presenting some interesting ideas, but for me, there is a lack of depth to both the characters and the plot. 

I would still recommend the book to anyone who has seen the TV series. It contains a lot more information about the world beyond the American states and some background to the political situation that is well worth knowing. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the book offers an interesting insight into what might have been. 


Vulcan’s Hammer

by Philip K Dick

I first read Vulcan’s Hammer back the mid-1970s, at the tender age of 11. It was in fact the first real Sci-Fi novel I ever read, having up until then contented myself with short stories and comics. Re-reading it now, the science is very dated, it being first published in 1960, but the story has a timelessness that over rides this.

In the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war, mankind turns to large computer systems – Vulcan – to make all the decisions and manage a global society. The idea is, apparently, to put an end to war. But by the start of the book, some people are turning their backs on the structure and lies of Unity (the global authority) and turning to a new group, the Healers, to bring about change.

Philip K Dick is a good storyteller who just happens to write science fiction. Vulcan’s Hammer has elements of a thriller with plenty of action and intrigue. But it also poses questions about artificial intelligence in a rational and thought provoking way.

Even in an age when commuters and the internet are all around us embedded in our everyday lives, the thought of handing over the mechanisms of government to machines is frightening. Imaging how that would have felt to readers in the 1960s and 70s!

I am so glad I tracked this book down again after all those years. Now I have it, I won’t be so quick to let it go again.