“Huh?” That was pretty much my reaction at the end of this book. The first and only other book I’ve read by Philip K. Dick was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I thought that book had a weird ending, but I think The Man in the High Castle out-weirded that one.
The general setting is in an alternate reality in which the Axis powers won World War II instead of the Allied powers. Japanese culture is dominant in the U.S. Nearly everybody speaks and thinks in broken English and uses the I Ching to make decisions and answer questions, while Germans are apparently all obsessed with the Nazi ideal. In other words, I thought the depiction of other cultures in this book seemed stereotyped, and the choppy English quickly became tiresome to read.
I think this book may have been intended more as a vehicle to express ideas than to tell a story. There are interesting ideas here, and some clever plot elements, but the story itself felt pretty thin to me. There are several plot threads, one or two of which could be considered the “main plot”, but there weren’t really any tangible results of the events in the book.
The main characters weren’t very likeable. Juliana was just plain loco. I hated Childan, to the point that I may have told him I hated him out loud a couple of times while reading. I warmed up to a couple of the others later in the book after I understood them better, but I didn’t get attached to any of them or care much what happened to them.
Of the two PKD books I’ve now read, I definitely preferred Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Its story interested me more, whereas I was occasionally bored by this one. I did enjoy some aspects of it, but not consistently. As a side note, this book has several German phrases that aren’t translated within the book, so it was nice to be able to highlight the phrases on my Kindle and instantly get a translation.