The Man in the High Castle: Or, If the I-Ching wrote a book about WWII

The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick

This is one of those books that has been around long enough in the cultural consciousness that I'm not sure I have much to add to the discourse. I will say this book wasn't quite what I expected. It is difficult to read in places, as the racism element is an important part of the book (which I expected), but it is also steeped in the I-Ching, eastern philosophy, and mysticism (which I did not expect). There are numerous themes running through the heart of this story, and many of them come from the I-Ching itself. There are also strong themes of duplicity, both in the characters (several people lead double lives and have assumed names) and in their actions, which ties in with the Taoist motifs. Even the story itself has a story within, and likely more stories inside of that, layering out into infinity. Questions of interpretation and perception are at the core of the book, which leads me to believe there are likely many differing ways to read the text should one be interested in pulling it apart.

The plot is a loose thread that winds its way through the lives of several characters. Some of these people are deeply involved and others significantly less so, but through all of them you get a multi-faceted view of the world Dick had created. The way the plot is so loosely woven, and the way the book draws to a bit of a non-conclusion, would usually be a huge deal breaker for me. Yet for some reason I remained intrigued even after I finished and set the book down. Even when I found the book frustrating or uncomfortable I kept returning to it.

To put it all another way:
At one point in the story a character is given an object, and his first reaction to it is one of borderline disgust. He finds it flawed, somewhat ugly, and ill crafted. Yet the more he sits with this object and reflects upon it the more the object seems to take on meaning and life. He discovers value and beauty in it. It encapsulates Wu to him. This is very much how I felt about this book. Did I love it? No. Did I enjoy my time in the world Dick has created, or bond to the characters? Not overly. But did I find some value and illumination in it? Yes, I did. I'm thankful I read it even as I am also thankful to leave this particular vision of reality far behind.