Review: Man in the High Castle

Man in the High Castle Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've read several collections of PKD's work, and I consider myself a fan. Even so, this one was a miss for me. High Castle weaves together the stories of several characters living within an America that is divided between the Japanese occupying the West, the Reich occupying the east, and a slim are of independence in the Rockies. We presume that the Allies have lost the war. Much as Germany was divided between the Soviets and the West, the US is now divided between the primary Axis powers. There are some interesting character studies, such as how some subvert themselves to their new masters while others attempt to fight from within. There is an overriding theme of loss of identity. From that standpoint, it is a fantastic book, and eye opening.

The events of World War II are at a great distance from me. I didn't leave through the war, nor the after effects. I came into the world as Carter was winning an election, but I don't really have any memories of politics or even presidents until Reagan's era. Given that, I can still identify with PKD's stories of fear of nuclear annihilation. The cold war is something I saw the end to, and I understand the awful implications of how close and how capable we were of destroying ourselves and each other. Germany and the evil of the Nazis is something I cannot identify with, however. I think this is what puts much of High Tower off from me. As a mental exercise it is interesting, but otherwise did not move me.

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Review: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm frustrated by this book. I like the core concept. Alien artifacts buried throughout the world for us to find once we reach a certain level of technical maturity. No indication of the intent of the machine. Is it a tool of peace, construction, wonder, science? What frustrates me is how the story is told. Each chapter is an interview between a nameless mystery agent and one of the characters directly involved in work on the giant. For me, it drains a lot of the potential color from the story. In many cases, the conversations feel forced or contrived instead of genuinely interactive. Interviewees go into long expositions on their experience in response to fairly mild prompts.

We're left with a major tease in the epilogue, and I enjoyed it enough that I'll pick up the next episode. Even so, I'll be bringing some reservations with me as I talk it up with fellow readers.

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Jade Mason