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    'I see you're reading The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,' he said.  'I hear it on many lips, but pressure of
    business prevents my attention.'  Rising, he went to pick it up, carefully consulting their
    expressions; they seemed to acknowledge this gesture of socialty, and so he proceeded.  'A mystery?
    Excuse my abysmal ignorance.'  He turned the pages.

    'Not a mystery,' Paul said.  'On the contrary, interesting form of fiction possibly within genre of
    science fiction.'

    'Oh no,' Betty disagreed.  'No science in it.  Nor set in future.  Scienmce fiction deals with future,
    in particular future where science has advanced over now.  Book fits neither premise.'
        -The Man in the High Castle

The central concern of all of Phillip K. Dick's speculative fiction seems to be our perception of reality and whether we can trust it, probably not surprising obsessions for an author who reportedly had his own problems coping with reality.  So it's natural for him to have been one of the earlier writers to try out the alternate history genre. In this novel, Japan and Germany, having won WWII, have divvied up the globe.  It's 1962 there too, but the Japanese administer California, while the Eastern United States is subservient to Germany.

The story, such as it is, follows a variety of characters, American, German and Japanese, at a time when Germany has been plunged into crisis by the death of the fuhrer, Martin Bormann.  Along with this backdrop of the succession struggle, and rumors of Germany's intent to nuke her long time ally Japan,  the American population has become captivated by a novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy by Hawthorne Abendsen, a reclusive author who lives in a secluded castle.  The novel speculates about an alternate history where America wins WWII.  The Germans have tried suppressing the book, but now Japanese too have begun reading it and one of the women in the book determines to try and track Abendsen down.  As an additional subplot, the I Ching has become a dominant force in people's lives, with Americans following the Japanese lead in allowing it to chart their future actions.  It is speculated that Abendsen may actually have written his novel according to the directions of the I Ching.

That's all there really is to the story.  The plot is pretty much nonexistent, action minimal, and the book ends almost at random.  As far as one can tell, the whole thing is just an elaborate joke, with the book being a kind of doppelganger for reality.  Puzzled readers and Dick fanatics have conjectured that the author himself may have let the I Ching make plot decisions and simply stopped writing when it told him to stop.  Whatever the case, it's easier to enjoy the ironies in retrospect than it is to enjoy the essentially directionless novel while you're reading it.


Grade: (C)


See also:

Phillip Dick (4 books reviewed)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Phillip Dick Links:

    -The CriticalWave: an ongoing bibliographical list of Philip K. Dick's work.
    The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick: The inside-out story of how a hyper-paranoid, pulp-fiction hack conquered the movie world 20 years after his death. (Frank Rose, December 2003, Wired)
    -REVIEW: of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K Dick (Michael Moorcock, The Guardian)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: "philip k. dick"
    -Shifting Worlds of Philip K. Dick
    -The Philip Kindred Dick WWW FAQ
    -Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982 (includes cover art)
    -Philip K Dick:   A Tribute to A Master of Science Fiction
    -Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
    -Philip K. Dick reading List (SF Site)
    -Laura's Addiction : Phillip K. Dick from A to Z
    -NEWSGROUP: altfanphilipdick
    -Paranormal Experiences of Philip K. Dick
    -LINKS:  Dick, Philip K. (Lycos)
    -ESSAY : Marxist Literary Critics Are Following Me! : How Philip K. Dick betrayed his academic admirers to the FBI. (Jeet Heer, Lingua Franca)
    -ESSAY : Through a Lens Darkly : Josh Saunders on Philip K. Dick, last of the early Christians (FEED)
    -ESSAY: The Electric Dreams of Philip K. Dick (Richard Bernstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Dick's Dicks: The Future of Law Enforcement According to Philip K. Dick  (Tim Kenyon,  The Council for the Literature of the Fantastic based at the Department of English of the University of Rhode Island)
    -ESSAYS: ( A Tribute to A Master of Science Fiction)
    -ESSAY: Joyce in Philip K. Dick (The Modern World)
    -REVIEW: of Do Androids Dream... (Mystery Guide)
    -ESSAY : Dickian Time in The Man in the High Castle
    -ESSAY : Meaning in the Man in the High Castle
    -PLOTLINES in The Man in the High Castle
    -ESSAY : The Metacolonization of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle: Mimicry, Parasitism, and Americanism in the P.S.A. (Cassie Carter, Science-Fiction Studies 22.67, Nov. 1995)
    -ESSAY : Reality, Authenticity, Metafiction and The Man in the High Castle. (Ian Krykorka)
    -REVIEW : of Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick ( Mark Wilson ,
    -SHORT REVIEW: MARY AND THE GIANT. By Philip K. Dick (Nancy Forbes, NY Times Book Review)
    -SHORT REVIEW: PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND. By Philip K. Dick  (Barbara Tritel, NY Times Book Review)
    -BOOK LIST: Great Science Fiction: recommended Reading (Steve Schmidt)

    -FILMOGRAPHY : Philip K. Dick (Imdb)
    -INFO : Blade Runner (1982) (Imdb)
    -BUY IT : Blade Runner (1982) DVD (
    -Blade Runner Kitchener / Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Rita Kempley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Blade Runner (Film Written Magazine)
    -BUY IT: Total Recall (1990) DVD (
    -BUY IT: Total Recall (1990) VHS (
    -INFO : Total Recall (1990) (imdb)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (James Berardinelli's ReelViews)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (Desson Howe, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (Rita Kempley, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Total Recall (John Hartl,

    -ESSAY: Beyond the lurid book covers : In defense of science fiction (John Clute, CNN/Salon)
    -ESSAY : Is Cyberpunk Still Breathing (ANDREW LEONARD, Salon)