Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life in the Leaves: Reading Update (The Man in the High Castle)

The Man in the High Castle

by Phillip K. Dick

Paperback, 249 pages

Published September 6th 2001 by Penguin (first published 1962)

ISBN 0141186674 (ISBN-13: 9780141186672)

This novel comes with a rather noble science fiction pedigree, and I'm not just talking about the last name that launched a thousand movies (many of them, unfortunately, absolutely terrible). The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award in 1963, and continues to be considered one of the quintessential "alternate future" sci fi epics (in spite of the fact that no one's executed any movie rights yet--unless you count Iron Sky as some sort of "inspired by" space thriller--but please don't count Iron Sky. Please.).

And yet...and yet. I really haven't been terribly impressed by this. I've been wanting to read it for probably almost a decade now, and after finally picking it up, I'm left wondering if I over-hyped it to myself. Did I turn a book that has the quality of Pan's Labyrinth into a Daredevil simply by telling myself what a great book it would be for so long?

I don't really care about many of the characters. To the point that I don't remember most of them when Dick shifts back to them after being away for a while. I'm tangentially interested in Juliana Frink, Robert Childan, and Frank Frink, but I'm not really invested in them. I think I can only call my feeling "interest" due to the fact that I remember who the hell they are when I go back to reading about them. If he killed one of them off, I can't even imagine putting the book down with a terse slap, much less throwing it across the room in an angst-ridden fit (yeah, I've done it more than once).

He's alluded to the differences between their world and ours, but it's always such an obvious and drawn out, "oh, this is how it is" reveal that I don't even care anymore. The only really compelling difference so far has been (SPOILER! Highlight to read:) the fact that the average person lacks television well into the sixties.

And, on a related note, I'm really not a fan of being in people's heads for so long as they go through the obvious reflection and flashback that is a rather lazy vehicle for expressing the current state of things. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Annoyingly fucking LAZY. You should know better, Phil.

Correction: I HAVE wanted to throw this across the room. But throwing a book across the room due to the laziness of the author is an entirely different problem. And I'm reading this on my Kindle. I don't have the heart to destroy it, regardless. My sweet Kindle has given me too many great and amazing books to throw it all away on one frustration.

Really, the only thing that's compelling for me is the book-within-a-book that everyone's reading, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The author, as well, has my attention, as the great mystery of the novel. How he's managed to live in the conquered world and write such incredible dissent is pretty fascinating. Hopefully that will develop into something to calm my disappointment (and infrequent rage) at a book that I'd built into something amazing in my head, only to read the literary equivalent of celery.

Ugh. Give me back my Vonnegut. I'm going to finish this one, but only under protest.

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