I don’t want this to become one of those roadblock reviews for me. You know, the ones where you just can’t figure out what to say because the whole book just overwhelmed you, and you can’t even figure out your own reaction, let alone how to sum up the book for other people.
I have no idea what my reaction is, or how to sum it up for you people.
So here’s what I can say about this book, exactly as thoughts are ocurring to me at this veyr moment:
1. It’s very well-written. This isn’t a surprise. From my (limited) experience of his writing, it’s clear the dude was at the very least highly gifted, if not an outright genius.
2. It’s the kind of book that even though it’s pretty short (two hundred plus pages paperback), every page is working hard. There’s no fat. He’s sort of like Hemingway in his precision, but on lots of drugs instead of drunk. Or the opposite of Henry James.
3. It’s an alternate history, the central ‘what if’ being: What if the Axis powers had won WWII? What kind of events would have precipitated that conclusion, and what would have been the result? That aspect of the novel is very interesting, seeing how the two main powers, Japan and Germany, essentially split up the world.
4. The novel follows several characters around who participate in events that are seemingly unrelated to one another. The cast of characters is varied: a Japanese businessman, a white American man who’s made a name for himself peddling American ‘antiquities’ to Japanese people, a Jewish man hiding in plain sight, his ex-wife, and a mysterious Swedish man in town for ‘negotiations’.
5. There are some pretty unique details happening here. Several characters are obsessed with the I Ching. One character quits his job making handguns to make jewelry. There is lots of Japanese fetishization by some characters. The clash between the Japanese and the German people is very understated and kind of frightening.
6. A large portion of the novel is devoted to the characters reading a novel within a novel, that itself is an alternate history, posing the question, ‘What if the Allies had won the war?’ The most interesting part about that is spotting the differences between what the fictional book postulates, and what actually happened in our history.
8. Philip K. Dick was seriously obsessed with questioning reality, or authenticity, or both.
9. I can’t figure out exactly what this novel is really about for me yet. I definitely need to re-read it. That’s sort of frustrating, but also kind of exciting.
10. I will read more Philip K. Dick. (But not until next year.)
And I think that concludes my review. I have a lot more to say, I can just feel it. Unfortunately my thoughts are really incoherent at the moment, so I will refrain from expressing them here at this time. (They would probably look something like this if I tried: DFOISJDF sdhgdsjf383838 !!! dfadfjadfadsfj ___________________ aodifa;sdfkja;sdkfj UUUUUUUUUUUBOOOOOOOOOEWEEEHHHEEEEEE.)