In February I attended a literary symposium and one of the first panels of the day and the first panel on which I was a part was on the writings of Philip K. Dick. On the panel with me were several Hugo Award winners (well, one had won a Hugo last year and another won his just last week...), a filmmaker and other noted guests.
I was out of my league, I knew it, but I ended up having a great time. I had read several Philip K. Dick novels. It became clear that I had a lot more to read. In the Dealer Room a gentleman was selling paperback and hardcover novels and it was from him I bought The Man in the High Castle.
If I were to give an elevator pitch of the book it would go like this: imagine the United States if Hitler's Germany and Japan won WWII. What would life be like for those living in the states?
The book answers this question very effectively. Americans carry on with their lives, but if you're Jewish, you want to stay clear of the the east coast and especially the southern states where German influence and rule is in full swing. Japan rules the west coast states and those people living there must deal with Japanese customs.
What I loved about this book is how it focused on very few characters. As the stories unfold and intertwine, an interesting subplot develops. A man living in Cheyenne, Wyoming wrote a book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which describes a reality in which America and Britain won WWII. The book fascinates and aggravates almost everyone. We eventually get to meet the author as one of the characters interacts with him, though the result of their meeting doesn't answer many questions or tie up any loose ends. In fact, the ending is somewhat ambiguous. I was left feeling that the lives of these characters could fill several books.
This is a relatively short read, but I took my time because I didn't want to miss anything. I wanted to really enjoy it.
Since I attended that panel on the writings and importance Philip K. Dick had on the world of science fiction (and if you don't believe he did, check out his IMDb page: HERE and see how many stories you know that he wrote...), I've bought another Philip K. Dick novel that I'll be starting hopefully soon. I'm preparing my self so that if I'm ever asked to be part of another panel on this particular author, I'll be ready.