Posted on | October 28, 2015 | 18 Comments
— by Wombat-socho
Apologies for the lack of book posts, but last week was pretty much eaten by work leading up to the October 15 extension deadline, medical appointments, and other craziness. This week I want to talk a little bit about The Man In The High Castle, originally a book by Philip K. Dick, and now a TV series by Ridley Scott and Frank Spotnitz for Amazon Prime Video. The book won the Hugo for Best Novel of 1963, back when Hugos actually meant something, and is an alternate history set fifteen years after the United States lost World War II in 1947. Most of the former United States are part of the Greater German Reich; the three Pacific states plus Nevada, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Idaho, and Utah belong to a Japanese puppet state, the Pacific States of America; and the remaining pieces of the country between are a neutral zone, sometimes called the Rocky Mountain States or more often, the Neutral Zone. I last read Dick’s book decades ago, and I have to say after watching the first two episodes of the TV series, Scott and Spotnitz have produced something better than the original book. The subversive novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is now a series of “newsreels” distributed by the Resistance, there have been some changes in the cast of characters, but above all, Scott and Spotnitz have introduced a sense of hallucinatory, paranoid surrealism that didn’t exist in the original book, which was a fairly straightforward alternate history along the lines of one of its inspirations, Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee – which itself is worth reading, for its depiction of the Union as a Third World backwater in the wake of a Civil War defeat, if nothing else. Getting back to the series…what struck me most is that it has a cast full of unreliable narrators. Nothing the characters say can be taken on faith as correct, there is reason to believe that “past” is not what it is claimed to be, and there are strong implications that the “newsreels” are not homemade movies, but rather leaks from our timeline. Can’t wait for the next eight episodes to come out next month!
One of the only other science-fictional things I’ve been reading is Edward P. Hughes’ Masters of the Fist, a post-apocalyptic tale about a small village in Ireland facing a number of problems, security and the infertility of the local menfolk being the two most pressing. Enter Sergeant O’Meara of the Grenadier Guards and his stolen Challenger MBT…like the first reviewer, I came across some of the stories in this fix-up novel by way of Jerry Pournelle’s There Will Be War anthologies, and appreciated the sometimes dark, sometimes madcap humor in these tales. Decent brain candy.
The other is Stark’s War, the first in a trilogy written by John Hemry before he took up writing The Lost Fleet novels and went with his birth name of John Campbell. Stark’s War was somewhat of a nightmare for a veteran NCO like me; the picture it paints of a military so isolated from its country that someone in the ranks who was born civilian and not mil is a very rare bird indeed, and an officer corps so addicted to micromanagement and apple-polishing that it no longer recognizes the realities of combat are just two of the many unsettling plot elements of this novel about an American hyperpower as it exists in the mind of the Loony Left: so dominant in terms of economic and military power that no nation or alliance of nations on Earth can stand up to it – which is why Sergeant Stark and his troops of the First Division are raiding foreign installations on the Moon. Good book, perhaps because of the premise and not in spite of it; now available for the Kindle, which is good.
Worth noting: John C. Wright’s “My Elves Are Different”, a meditation on the generation gap in fantasy readers, which was inspired by Jeffro’s Appendix N Survey. Also, a fisking of that gigantic retard Steve Davidson, who runs the Amazing Stories site, by a fellow named Dystopic, who dealt with Davidson’s criticism of an LJ post of mine on the social history of fandom so I didn’t have to.
And what have you been reading in this week before Halloween?