Twenty-Fifteen: I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m getting serious about reading, again. I’ve dusted off my paperbacks and charged up my Kindle. It’s time to take the time to feed my poor television-adled brain with a selection of healthy, nourishing fiction. So, read on, little brain. Read on. We’re going Book to the Future!
As I finished the last couple chapters of The Man in the High Castle I found myself drifting into that surreal state of not-quite-knowing if I was missing something or not. Or what… the… fudge?
Part of it, I think, is that I’m not what you’d call a “magical thinker” …in that I tend to look for rational explanations of things. This is due mostly to my innate cynical nature, but additional credit goes to a science degree and years of dipping my toe into the so-called rational thinkers community. Meanwhile, The Man in the High Castle is deeply influenced by a kind of astrologically-influenced kind of nudging that manifests in the form of many characters leaning on the oracle-like advice of the I Ching. Subtle, at the front, but by the end it is heavily entrenched in the plot.
To sort it out, I did some late-night research to get a better sense of why the author chose to use this as a vehicle for his story. In the end I wasn’t clear on if it fell into the realm of ‘deliberately-influenced’ or ‘deliberately-analytical.’ In other words, I wasn’t sure if the author was exploring the I Ching and the idea of that kind of magical influence as a meta experiment in his writing, or if he was using it as a plot device in a more critical way. As in, was he methodically embracing it or fictionally critiquing it?
Sure, it’s a subtle distinction, but it has broad consequences for my own critical analysis of the novel.
Oddly enough I concluded the book thinking about the movie Blade Runner, that classic cult science fiction flick based on the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by yes, Philip K. Dick the same author of The Man in the High Castle. Not coincidental.
Dick, it seems, while not a one-trick-pony as they say, has his bag of tricks, and there was a familiar WTF? kind of moment in the closing chapters that made me feel simultaneously like (a) I should probably read the whole book over from the beginning and (b) I think I missed something and yet also a long drawn out (c) “awwwwwwwesome!” Like Blade Runner, which I’ll admit that I needed to watch three times before I really understood at any meaningful level, this book and the odd sort of characters-meta-aware and multiple-realities innuendo and we’re-all-nudged-along-by-unseen-cosmic-forces vibe I got… I don’t know if I’ll be bothered with that re-read.
It was curious, and if you have a few days to flip through this light volume of early-60s-influenced spec-fic, it might be worth your time. Or, apparently (as my numerous web searches revealed) it’s being turned into a direct-to-streaming-video special in the very near future, sure to be only lightly inspired by the novel but still weird as hell.