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The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

Author: Philip K. Dick
Rating: 7/10
Last Read: February 2017

Quick Summary:  As a long time sci-fi fan (and Philip K. Dick fan), I was disappointed that I never read The Man in the High Castle.  Once I saw it was being made into a mini-series, I was motivated to finally read it.

The Man in the High Castle is a short novel set in an alternate universe. The notable difference between the book's universe and our own is that the Axis won WWII. The United States is split between Japan and Germany. The book takes place in Japanese-occupied San Francisco and follows multiple Japanese, American, and German characters. The characters are interrelated, if only through chance meetings, and they provide different views into the culture and challenges of this alternative world.

If you're looking for a complete story with a nice ending, The Man in the High Castle is not for you. The book offers no resolution, it is simply a glimpse into an alternative reality and a study of the characters who live there.

Overall I enjoyed reading the book - it was an excellent pre-bed reading option.

My Highlights

Yes, these new young people, of the rising generation, who did not remember the days before the war or even the war itself—they were the hope of the world. Place difference did not have the significance for them. It will end, Childan thought. Someday. The very idea of place. Not governed and governing, but people. --loc 92

‘What profit it a man if he gain the whole world but in this enterprise lose his soul?’” --loc 170

Random, and yet rooted in the moment in which he lived, in which his life was bound up with all other lives and particles in the universe. --loc 190

Tagomi had never ridden on such a ship; when he met Mr. Baynes he would have to take care to appear blasé, no matter how large the rocket turned out to be. Now to practice. He stood in front of the mirror on the office wall, creating a face of composure, mildly bored, inspecting his own cold features for any giveaway. Yes, they are very noisy, Mr. Baynes, sir. One cannot read. But then the flight from Stockholm to San Francisco is only forty-five minutes. --loc 225

“You never know what they’re going to do,” Juliana said. “They hide their real thoughts.” --loc 438

Watching him, Juliana thought, It’s idealism that makes him that bitter. Asking too much out of life. Always moving on, restless and griped. I’m the same way; I couldn’t stay on the West Coast and eventually I won’t be able to stand it here. Weren’t the old-timers like that? But, she thought, now the frontier isn’t here; it’s the other planets. --loc 492

Perhaps if you know you are insane then you are not insane. Or you are becoming sane, finally. Waking up. I suppose only a few are aware of all this. Isolated persons here and there. But the broad masses . . . what do they think? All these hundreds of thousands in this city, here. Do they imagine that they live in a sane world? Or do they guess, glimpse, the truth . . . --loc 572

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 worshiped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man. --loc 587

What they do not comprehend is man’s helplessness. I am weak, small, of no consequence to the universe. It does not notice me; I live on unseen. But why is that bad? Isn’t it better that way? Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small . . . and you will escape the jealousy of the great. --loc 590

That McCarthy, he thought, is a damn good shop foreman. He has the knack of needling a man, getting him to put out his best efforts, to do his utmost in spite of himself. He’s a natural leader; he almost inspired me, for a moment, there. But—McCarthy had gone off, now; the effort had failed. --loc 691

“We must all have faith in something,” Mr. Tagomi said. “We cannot know the answers. We cannot see ahead, on our own.” --loc 1001

Gemeinschaft—folkness. --loc 2316

“Juliana, it’s all darkness,” Joe said. “Nothing is true or certain. Right?” “Maybe so,” she said absently, continuing to try to read. --loc 2329

Nothing. Heart pounding. Respiration and all somatic processes, including all manner of diencephalic-controlled autonomic responses to crisis: adrenaline, greater heartbeat, pulse rate, glands pouring, throat paralyzed, eyes staring, bowels loose, et al. Stomach queasy and sex instinct suppressed. --loc 2363

And yet, nothing to see; nothing for body to do. Run? All in preparation for panic flight. But where to and why? Mr. Tagomi asked himself. No clue. Therefore impossible. Dilemma of civilized man; body mobilized, but danger obscure. --loc 2365

Calmly, even harshly, Paul said, “Robert, you must face reality with more courage.” --loc 2531

Childan thought, He’s actually saying: Which are you Robert? He whom the oracle calls “the inferior man,” or that other for whom all the good advice is meant? Must decide, here. You may trot on one way or the other, but not both. Moment of choice now. --loc 2581

The oracle enigmatic. Perhaps it has withdrawn from the world of man in sorrow. The sages leaving. We have entered a Moment when we are alone. We cannot get assistance, as before. Well, Mr. Tagomi thought, perhaps that too is good. Or can be made good. One must still try to find the Way. --loc 3179

But we cannot do it all at once; it is a sequence. An unfolding process. We can only control the end by making a choice at each step. --loc 3516

We do not have the ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because cognition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious. --loc 3519

Juliana said, “Oracle, why did you write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy? What are we supposed to learn?”
“You have a disconcertingly superstitious way of phrasing your question,” Hawthorne said. --loc 3680

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Book 1)

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Book 1)

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