It is post World War II, but in this alterative future Roosevelt had been assassinated in 1933 and America had never emerged from the great depression. The Axis powers won and America is now under the Nazi’s on the east coast and Japan invaded and established the Pacific States of America (PSA) on the west coast. The Rocky Mountain States are now a neutral buffer zone. With the Nazi victory came sweeping changes across Europe, genocide in the African continent and they mastered space.
In this strange new world, PKD has scattered a cast of characters that are loosely linked. Bob Childan owns an antiques shop specialising in Americana relics some of which have been bought through the Wyndam-Matson Corporation. Frank Frink, who is secretly a Jew and a previous employee of Wyndam-Matson, discovers that the antiques are fakes, and walks away with a sum of money to start a new business with another colleague. His ex wife, Juliana, is now living in the neutral zone, and has begun a relationship with an Italian truck driver called Cinnadella. A Swedish industrialist named Baynes has recently arrived and is asking for a meeting with a Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese trade official, who had visited Childan’s shop to buy a gift for him. Several characters in the book are reading the banned novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy by Hawthorne Abendsen, who according to lore lives in a guarded home called the High Castle. This novel within the novel has its own alternate history, our future, where the Allies have won World War II. Throughout the book, some of the characters use the ancient divination text of I Ching to help them make decisions even though the choices presented are not always what they want.
I have come to like PKD books. Not all of them are great works of literature, but they all manage to mess with your head. In this parallel world, he has conceived a future with the Axis powers running most of the western world and still causing horrific acts. The story is woven with tension, from Julianna realisation about her boyfriend’s intentions, the power struggles at the top of the Nazi hierarchy and the potential for another world war. I liked the overlapping coincidences in the novel within from our world and the new parallel world that he conceived. Whilst the plot is not hugely strong, it’s a book that makes you think about the paradox of alternative futures and what the world might have been like. Good stuff. 3.5 stars.