Philip K. Dick makes alternate history relevant. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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The Man in the High Castle is an intriguing foray into alternate history from a master of innovative speculative fiction.

In this novel, Philip K. Dick speculates on the question of "what if" in a very striking sense: "what if" the Allies had lost World War II. Man in the High Castle is set in what was for Dick present day (1960's). An alliance of the Nazis and the Japanese now oversee government in what was the United States. The world of his characters is strangely familiar and normal, but for the jarring oddities of historical happenstance.

This narrative is a pioneer of alternate history. Philip K. Dick avoids the trap of making his speculative world too expected or gimmicky. Rather, his alternate reality grows out of the predictability of normalcy. The aspects of Dick's imagined Nazi/Japanese America that are most different from our own are not the aspects that are most compelling. The common ground and common sentiments we share with regular people in Dick's admittedly more culturally diverse America are much more compelling than the speculative differences.

An all too rare breed of speculative fiction, alternate history speaks to its readers as realistically in Man in the High Castle as any speculative or conventional literature.

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S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.