Sorry about the "interesting points that I'm definitely interested in" last week, you guys. I had a cold... That's my only excuse. Another "classic" review this week. -M.R.
Context: I actually don't really remember when I read this one or much about reading it, but I know I'd really like to have another look at it. I'm not quite willing to stand behind this review anymore, because a ton of sf nerds love to drool all over "PKD" and I need to give him a few more shots before I dismiss him entirely like I seem to've done here. So far I've read this book and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which was... okay. But then I've seen Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly and really enjoyed both. (Obviously I know that's not the same thing as reading the books they're adapted from, but it still seemed like a relevant detail.)
Year Published: 1962
First Sentence: For a week Mr. R. Childan had been anxiously watching the mail.
This book was not as awesome as it could've been, not by a long shot. Okay, sure, it won a Hugo and everything, but my theory is that it's just because the concept is so neat. The writing, however, leaves much to be desired, at least by me.
For one thing, PKD (as I will abbreviate the author's name over the course of this review so that I can avoid any bad jokes involving the word 'Dick') makes use of, at certain times, a very halting sort of language. I don't recall now whether it was articles that he was leaving out, or what (and I no longer have the grammatical expertise to truly define what he was doing anyway), but it disrupted the whole flow of the narrative. What I mean by that is that I was much too aware, at times, that I was reading. Perhaps there was a certain effect he was going for, a semblance or parallel he was trying to draw with the speech pattern of his Japanese characters. Maybe it works on some people, but it certainly didn't work on me.
Also, there's use of German in this book and I, like many others, don't speak German. I don't read it, either. That's why it would've been nice for PKD to toss in some translations, because every once in awhile I felt like I was really missing out on something where the German bits are concerned. Not a lot, of course, but enough.
We now come to the perplexing ending. Don't worry, I won't give it away or anything. But what the hell? Many a promising sf story is sadly marred by an obscure or absurd ending. Case in point: John Wyndham's The Chrysalids. The ending for The Man in the High Castle wasn't even close to being that awful, but it was still... well, it was just weird. Maybe PKD was trying to lighten things up a little, given that his subject matter on the whole was pretty bleak, but if that's the case, then it kind of cheapens the whole novel. Alternate history is about saying what could have been, rather than, "This could've happened, but oh God, that's way too scary, so I, the author, am going to cop out at the end so that my readers don't get too unsettled." Terrible terrible. Of course, that's not necessarily the case. I may just have to give PKD the benefit of the doubt: that he was not self-censoring, but rather making a point, and that point went over my head.
Maybe the key was in the untranslated German phrases.