April 27, 2008

Man in the High Castle was indeed a let-down

So says Volokh's Ilya Somin.

The classic Philip K. Dick book didn't impress me when I finally read it a couple years ago. It was highly recommended by many reviewers prior to my purchase; however, I was left wondering why when I finished the book.

I should've known, though. Anything Dick writes is full of psychadelic symbolism, many times at the expense of the overall plot. I went into MITHC expecting a "standard" alternate history novel. It's far from it. The premise -- a world in which the US lost World War II and is divided among the Germans and Japanese -- is intriguing, but the sub-plots (with the attached symbolism) are what get it bogged down. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the basis for "Blade Runner," is a more ... "standard" read, but still has its share of out-there symbolism.

The best "straightforward" alternate history I've read lately is John Birmingham's "Axis of Time" trilogy. In the year 2021, a coalition naval battle group (fighting radical Islamic terror cells, by the way) is accidentally whisked back to the year 1942. (The scientific premise behind this accident is that scientists thought they had perfected the means by which to "teleport" micro-explosives directly into the brains of terrorist masterminds.) Seemingly like the cult classic flick "The Final Countdown," Birmingham takes the story all the way -- the entire course of WW II is irrevocably altered due to the unexpected influx of high technology (not to mention enlightened cultural and moral values).

And best of all? Birmingham leaves open the possibility of a sequel trilogy, possibly an altered "Cold War" series.

Posted by Hube at April 27, 2008 11:25 AM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Thanx for the head's up. I've thrown it on my Amazon wish list. So, I've been thinking, do you think it's possible for a book "rental" club similar to say Blockbuster Online, where for a set fee (20.30 for BB) I can keep 3 books out at once? I honestly prefer to read paperbacks (so the library is usually out) so this idea would appeal. When I run across a movie on some blog that I might like, I just surf over to blockbuster and throw it in my queue. I enjoy the convenience and cost certainty of this method of Movie Rentals and would really be interested in a similar book club type of deal.

Posted by: Mark at April 28, 2008 07:55 AM

FYI I believe that Birmingham is a pseudonym for SF giant David Weber (Honor Harrington) who was too prolific for a single name.

Posted by: steve Newton at April 28, 2008 04:09 PM

Mark: That'd be a great idea. Although, as cheap as you can find paperbacks, I wonder if it'd cost effective. You can find used paperbacks (via Amazon by private dealers) for pennies, sometimes, excluding shipping.

Steve: Interesting info. I had no idea. I'll have to check it out.

Posted by: Hube at April 28, 2008 06:28 PM

Actually, there is a place you can go, get a book for a whole month, and return it. Some of them will even find a book at a different location if they don't have it there. And it's all free*. It's called the public library. :)

*not counting taxpayer funds or contributions, which are only the same thing to Democratic politicians.

Posted by: ShadowWing Tronix at April 29, 2008 02:06 PM