I learned that The Man in High Castle exists after my sister mentioned seeing imperial Japanese vehicles that said something like “Imperial Japanese Government of San Francisco” on them in her neighbourhood, so the TV series The Man in High Castle must be filming close by. An alternate reality novel where the allies lost the second world war sounded interesting, and since the TV series is pretty successful it’s easy to borrow the e-book from my library.
In a story where the Nazis and Imperial Japanese won the second world war race is important, and treated very differently from the how it is in the real world. Reading a 1962 novel in 2019 is slightly weird with regards to race. Philip K Dick does not seem to be racist, (from some internet reading it seems like wasn’t, and dreamed of true racial equality, which we are far from achieving), but word choices made in the early sixties would not be made today, and someone who hasn’t read much from the mid 20-th century recently it’s slightly jarring.
It also took me a while to get used to the way Tagomi’s dialogue, (both inner and outer), is written. It feels like sentences are structured the way that native Japanese-speakers speak English when they’re functional English speakers but yet to achieve mastery. I don’t know what Philip K Dick is trying to show, maybe he’s trying to portray an accent, (but other Japanese characters seem to speak more fluently than Tagomi thinks), maybe he’s trying to show that Tagomi thinks differently from many other people, or maybe something else altogether.
I felt like sometimes we spent way too long inside characters heads, especially Tagomi. This isn’t my favourite thing to read in any book, and would have preferred less, but it’s also important to the character of The Man in High Castle. In my first reading I missed Tagomi stepping into an alternate timeline where the Embarcadro Expressway exists. Going back and re-reading that section I can see it, but it’s not so clear that someone not familiar with the 60s, and not familiar with San Francisco, would notice it.
It wasn’t until after I had finished reading the book that I found Philip K Dick is also the author of famous books like Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Because I went in blind I did not expect any science-fiction, so when the sci-fi touches appeared I either missed them entirely, (Tagomi), or was surprised and entertained. I will be reading more Philip K Dick, and paying better attention when I do.