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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:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Philip K. Dick
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Philip K. Dick (Charles Platt conducted this interview with Philip K Dick at Philip’s home in Santa Ana, CA on May 17, 1979 for Platt's book Dream Makers)
    -VIDEO: Philip K. Dick Theorizes The Matrix in 1977, Declares That We Live in “A Computer-Programmed Reality” (Open Culture))
-BOOK LIST: The Best Philip K. Dick Books (recommended by David Hyde, FiveBooks)
    -ESSAY: Minority Report and the Work of the Devil (Alex Lei, 2/13/24, Splice Today)
    -ESSAY: Welcome to Philip K. Dick’s dystopia: Nothing is private and no one is free (DAVID SAMUELS, 8/16/22, UnHerd)
    -ESSAY: Philip K Dick: the writer who witnessed the future: Forty years since the death of the sci-fi author – whose stories have inspired films like Blade Runner and Minority Report – Adam Scovell explores how prophetic his work has been. (Adam Scovell, 1st March 2022, BBC)
    -ESSAY: Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans (Henry Farrell, 1/16/18, Boston Review)
-COMIC: The Death of Philip K. Dick Brought to Life: The science-fiction writer was guided during his life by a prescient inner voice that he sometimes called the “entity.” (Paul Karasik, March 2, 2022, The New Yorker)
    -ESSAY: Pharewell, Phil: Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) (Jason P. Vest, MARCH 2, 2022, Common Reader)
    -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)

    -ESSAY: Blade Runner at 40 (JACK BUTLER, July 2, 2022, National Review)
    -ESSAY: More Human Than Human: Blade Runner is about one thing: the plight of sweaty, physical, and passionate men in the digital and corporate age. (Mark Judge, 7/07/22, Splice Today)

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)