Phillip K. Dick liked to say reality is a forgery. His stories challenged reality. They challenged the norm. He fully embraced the drugs and counterculture of the sixties. At one point, it is said, he was taking 1,000 amphetamines a week, but I can’t verify this statistic. He suffered many mental breaks from reality, and his writing portrayed his strangeness. In the end, P. K. Dick was insane, and spent some time institutionalized after an attempted suicide in 1972. Dick lived in a different reality than the rest of the world, but that is what makes his books interesting.
Some say his identity crisis derives from the death of his twin sister. She died six weeks after their birth. His paranoia and schizophrenia come from the part of him that went missing when she died. He spent his entire life trying to find himself through the use of religion and drugs, and he shared the search through his stories.
Dick published 44 extremely strange novels and over 121 short stories. He worked in the science fiction genre telling stories of metaphysics, alternative history, religion, drug abuse, paranoia and schizophrenia. His writing voice screamed of an alternative reality, and his lifelong search for wholeness.
The books are not well written. Dick is not famous for his prose. He is famous for his uniqueness. When you finish one of his books, you sit back, and go WTF. The story does not draw in the reader rather its oddness hooks the reader. You find yourself trying to figure out where the story is going, and what is Dick trying to say.
At least eleven of his books have been turned into movies, Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau are just a few. Only Matheson may have more stories converted to movies.
Recently I read The Man in the High Castle. He won his only Hugo Award in 1962 for this book. Japan and Germany won World War II. Germany controls the east coast of the former United States and Japan runs the West Coast. The middle part of the country including Denver is technically free.
We don’t meet the protagonist, Juliana, until half way through the book. We are introduced to her earlier in a scene about her ex-husband, but we don’t actually meet her until much later. Are we getting the story from her point of view; I’m really not sure.
I tried to stop reading the story a couple of times, but it strangeness kept me intrigued. After finishing, I still think about it. What did I actually read? What was the story about? I’ve come to the conclusion it is a schizophrenic’s view of post World War II, but I haven’t figured out what is reality and what isn’t in the book. Possibly, you should give it a try.
Be warned it is not an easy read. On a number of occasions, you will ask yourself, why I’m a wasting my time with this? It is also very non-politically correct, and many may find it offensive, but then it is a world ruled by the Nazis.
What makes a good book? Certainly a book should be well written. It should entertain. But shouldn’t it also cause us to question our beliefs and our values? After reading a book are we content to throw it on the floor, and walk away. I think, a good book is one that causes us to think about long after we have finished reading it.