Several years ago, having read and reviewed THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER (Vintage Books, 1991), I decided to check out this book which won a Hugo Award and was widely considered to be Dick's best (during his lifetime, at least). The setting and denouement of HIGH CASTLE are wonderfully original, but the twenty year distance between the two books is all too evident. Dick's writing improved tremendously over that span, leaving the feeling that a terrific idea was somewhat wasted on his inexperienced talent. The story is set in post-WW II California, the Nazis and Japanese having won the war and divided the world between them. The Jews and most Africans have been liquidated in the ensuing 18 years, and the Japanese are still cooperating with their technically and militarily superior allies in rounding up Jewish survivors. The only serious trouble on the Nazi horizon is a widely circulated (though banned) book which spins a fable of a world in which America won the war. Written by an author who holds out in a secure fortress in the Rockies, the book has stirred the imaginations of millions of Americans in occupied territory on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The surprise ending deserves better writing, but it at least exhibits the amazing PKD imagination, seeing between the cracks in reality.
Phil Dick's foray into alternate history, with an alternate within an alternate twist. What happened when the US lost WWII? The Nazis and Imperial Japan split the US between them. Dick's usual mind-bending goes on here, and he makes a very strong case for the utility of the 'world as myth' concept.