The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Man in the High Castle is probably the finest and certainly the most influential alternative history novel ever written, evidenced by its Hugo Award for best novel of 1962 and allusions to it in subsequent alternative histories. It is set shortly after an Axis victory in World War II, which led to partitioning of the United States into the German-controlled eastern region, the Japanese-occupied West Coast, and a buffer zone in the Rocky Mountain states. In contrast to the brutal Nazi regime, Japanese control is more cultural and economic in nature than military or political. Japanese bureaucrats eagerly consume the cultural treasures of the country while Americans study the I Ching and artificially darken their skin.

The novel opens with a telephone call from Nobusuke Tagomi, a bureaucrat in the Japanese occupation government, to Robert Childan, an American antique dealer. Tagomi wishes to purchase a gift for a visiting Swedish official. This official is in reality Rudolf Wegener, a German agent. Wegener’s mission is to prevent a surprise nuclear attack on the Japanese home islands by enlisting covert Japanese support for Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Gestapo.

A second strand in the narrative web of the novel begins when Childan is told that one of his antiques is counterfeit. The informer is Frank Frink, a Jewish refugee from the east and a former employee of the Wyndam-Matson Corporation, a manufacturer of counterfeit antiques. His visit to Childan’s store is part of a scheme to start...

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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In narrating the consciousness of his characters, Dick in this novel uses the stylistic techniques of realism: indirect free style mixed with...

(The entire section is 138 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Most popular novels mirror society and social issues, but in the case of science fiction the mirroring is often indirect, or even distorting....

(The entire section is 548 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The alternate history device is not used by Dick as often as the other elements in the science fiction repertoire. Time travel is much more...

(The entire section is 157 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"Faith of Our Fathers" (1967) was nominated for a Hugo award for Best Novelette in 1967. The story is frequently anthologized and is often...

(The entire section is 262 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Apel, D. Scott, ed. Philip K. Dick: The Dream Connection. San Diego: Permanent Press, 1987.

Carrere, Emmanuel. I Am Alive and You Are Dead: The Strange Life and Times of Philip K. Dick. Translated by Timothy Bent. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003.

Lem, Stanislaw. Microworlds: Writings on Science Fiction and Fantasy. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Mackey, Douglas A. Philip K. Dick. Boston: Twayne, 1988.

Mason, Daryl. The Biography of Philip K. Dick. London: Gollancz, 2006.

Olander, Joseph, and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds. Philip K. Dick. New York: Taplinger, 1983.

Palmer, Christopher. Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2003.

Sutin, Lawrence. Divine Invasion: A Life of Philip K. Dick. New York: Harmony Books, 1987.

Umland, Samuel J., ed. Philip K. Dick Contemporary Critical Interpretations (Contributions to the Study of Science Fantasy). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Warrick, Patricia. Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.

Williams, Paul. Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick. New York: Arbor House, 1986.