I give Philip K. Dick credit for the alternate history/aftermath of WWII in his novel The Man in the High Castle. However, my biggest contention, and there are many with this particular novel, is why we meet Hawthorne Abendsen so late in the story. It was a letdown.
Throughout the story the build-up indicates that the reader will eventually meet the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the novel within the novel penned Abendsen and popular among the money characters within Dick’s tale. Ultimately, however, Abendsen turns out to be not as mythical or larger-than-life as I had anticipated.
Recently, I read a quote from a literary journal editor who said, and I’m paraphrasing here, the difference between “literary” fiction and other genres like science fiction is that there are no memorable characters which is a hallmark of so-called literary fiction (Holden Caulfield, Emma Bovary, Celie, and Humbert Humbert, to name just a few).
I am hard-pressed to recall one science fiction character who makes the grade where this theory is concerned. The monster in Frankenstein, perhaps? Surely, not Winston Smith; even though we feel sorry for him (or not if you’re some sort of sociopath). Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Not exactly human, is he? The same goes for The Man in the High Castle. We have this build-up throughout the novel; only to find out that Abendsen doesn’t actually live in the High Castle anymore.
True, Philip K. Dick was prolific. Like other prolific writers, not every novel is guaranteed to be a winner. It’s ironic that Dick began his career trying to get “literary” novels published. Don’t get me wrong. Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite writers. The Man in the High Castle, however, despite winning the Hugo Award in 1963 for best novel, was more of a triple rather than a homer. For my money, nothing beats A Scanner Darkly or the VALIS Trilogy. Ditto for Flow My Tears the Policeman Said.