The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Man In The High Castle

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?


18 Responses to “The Man In The High Castle”

  1. JeffWeimer
    October 29th, 2015 @ 12:06 am

    Man in the High Castle….I’m watching it now, thanks to your reco.

  2. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    October 29th, 2015 @ 1:27 am

    The Amazon pilot was pretty good (I liked the original novel a lot) are most episodes out there (I thought we had to wait till next month)

  3. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2015 @ 1:31 am

    The first two are out; we have to wait a few weeks for the other eight.

  4. John Rose
    October 29th, 2015 @ 5:49 am

    Just finished “Count To A Trillion” by the aforementioned John C. Wright. Space Opera in the truest sense, I think. Book One of a series of (at least) four, possibly six.

    Made the mistake of FINISHING the book BEFORE I sent off for the other 3 available in the series. Now I have to wait…

  5. CrustyB
    October 29th, 2015 @ 6:39 am

    “Bazooko’s Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing every Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.”
    -Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”

  6. Bob Belvedere
    October 29th, 2015 @ 6:41 am

    Wombat wrote: 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….

    Not to be confused with Masters Of The Fist, the joint autobiography of Rahm Emanuel and Barack Hussein Obama.

  7. Fail Burton
    October 29th, 2015 @ 7:07 am

    And Davidson and things like Mike Glyer’s File 770 blog and its comments section of pathological liars aren’t even the worst of them. They’re just feminist spittoons. Anyone who reads McCain will recognize what’s being most promoted in SFF and why the social justice clods are impossible to debate:

    Misogyny of men: a lie
    Patriarchy: a fable
    “Compulsory heterosexuality”: a lie
    White privilege: a lie which can measure and predict nothing
    Rape culture: a lie
    Golden Age of SF as racist, sexist and homophobic: sure, if you’re a radical lesbian ideologue, because the entire world is that way
    The idea SJWs don’t relentlessly promote affirmative action: a lie
    Sexism in SF: again, by Dworkian standards, what isn’t?
    Intersectionality as social justice: it’s an anti-white racist cult
    GamerGate as women-hating terrorists: a lie
    SJWs providing covering fire for pedophiles: true

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  9. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    October 29th, 2015 @ 9:08 am
  10. Southern Air Pirate
    October 29th, 2015 @ 11:21 am

    Have you read the “Paul Sinclair” series by Jack Campbell? They are how I can imagine now a modern US Space Command. The first 3 books are good the last one seemed like a hurried way to end the series before starting Stark series and his lost fleet series.

  11. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2015 @ 12:53 pm

    I like these novels a lot better than his Phaethon trilogy, myself. Wait’ll you get to The Judge Of Ages. 🙂

  12. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

    Is this the one I’ve heard described as “JAG in Space”?

  13. Wombat_socho
    October 29th, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

    I can’t take you people anywhere.

  14. Southern Air Pirate
    October 29th, 2015 @ 1:08 pm

    Yea. I got the first two books feee while on a military deployment. One of those church/civics groups sends reading material to units. Out of the pile of old King Novels, trashy romances, D&D approved fantasy series was two of the series.

    First novel is the young man Paul Sinclair defending his skipper after the Skipper attacks an Eastern Asian Union space ship in a border of US controlled space. The detective work by Sinclair about how the Skipper is being framed for what appears to be a crime is interesting. Oh and Sinclair still needs to attend to his regular duties as an officer in US Space Command. From doing paperwork on his junior personnel to qualifications as the officer of the deck on a space ship.

    The second one has him get involved in some shennigans that involve a well to do Naval Officer whose family has been in the USN and US Space agency since the days of Goddard launching rockets, a potentially crooked defense contractor with ties to the same family, and an investigation that is making Sinclair the fall guy for a device that failed since it was under his division’s care to use and operate. Oh and the investigation team is lead by a prospective father in law to Sinclair.

    Those two were good again for the detective stuff, the minor legalese, and when they were in space I could see more current space tech and deaigns like stuff and less Trek/Star Wars style ships and space stations.

    The whole series is up on Kindle and most of them are less than $10/book. So you could spend forty and get some quick short reads for an airplane ride or when you want to laze on the couch as the fall and winter rains come down outside.

  15. Southern Air Pirate
    October 29th, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

    Should amplify that second to last paragraph. Campbell description of the ships is where water is precious, food is rehydration of gray mystery meats in weird flavored gravies. There is no artificial gravity but handhold all over. The space stations are big on the outside and smaller still on the inside with little lounges and closets for congenial visitations. The ships themselves described as being large on the outside (as big as an old battleship of the surface navy) but inside there is just enough room to eat in shifts of 8 per table in the mess and the bridge only has the skipper, the helmsman and the officer of the deck and room to exchange the watches is done one at a time. Video screens for the outside views and the nations of the world claim segments of deep space between the moon and Mars as thier own private space to develop and process. The world created in the snippets offered seems realistic to me compared to some of the current sci-fI at least with how the technology for space travel is expected to progress. As well as compared to the golden age of humanity as a species traveling off world to conquer worlds. Instead we have nations carrying on thier issues into space and looking for that advantage at all points.

  16. John Rose
    October 29th, 2015 @ 7:53 pm

    I’m just loving the SCALE of it all. He’s not mincing when it comes to interstellar distances, relativity, etc.

    And when they, um… bomb the tower? At the end of CTAT? The description of what happens is amazing.

    I mean, I knew WHAT it was, and I knew what had to happen, but the prose was like crossing Tolkien with Heinlein or Clarke.

    The rest of the series should arrive late this week… 😀

  17. Nohbody
    October 29th, 2015 @ 11:59 pm

    I actually talked with Campbell outside of a panel he was about to be a speaker for at Dragoncon. IIRC he said he was considering continuing the series, but it was a low priority thing, given other contractual commitments.

  18. Nohbody
    October 30th, 2015 @ 12:03 am

    The series and his Stark’s War series are both available in various electronic formats via Baen E-books, the “Hemry Ebook Megabundle”. That’s where I became acquainted with his work, FWIW.

    No DRM, and multiple formats available, so whatever you read with there’s likely something that will work with it.