A good surprise

When I read books, watch TV or movies, I usually attempt to not read into what’s being presented. I’m not the guy who wants to know the ending ahead of time. I want that moment when I think, “Huh, didn’t see that coming,” with a grin on my face.

It’s not easy sometimes. If you really think about it, you’d probably be surprised with how often what’s coming is practically highlighted, underlined and in all caps in most media. And sometimes when there is a surprise, it’s not a good one. It doesn’t make sense. It’s done solely to be surprising, with no thought of effectiveness or story.

That’s why I’m so pleased after finishing Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle.” Other than “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, my only PKD exposure is via “Blade Runner,” which is, of course, based on that novel. For some reason or another, I’ve just kind of danced around his work. Clearly, an error on my part.

SPOILER ALERT: “The Man in the High Castle” is an alternate history. What if Japan and Germany had won WWII, then split up the world? The American west coast is under Japanese control. The east belongs to Germany. The Rockies and some of the plains states are a sort of demilitarized zone. Not exactly under control, but not essentially free.

Dick follows a jeweler hiding his Jewishness, a Japanese official in the midst of a spiritual crisis, a beautiful and capable woman who falls in with the wrong man, an antiquities dealer who undergoes satori that he is in no way capable of dealing with, and a German who is selling out his country before the fatherland attempts to take over the entire world. I’m not a huge fan of the whole alternate history thing, but this is well done and has a twist, one that both makes sense and is a bit of a surprise.

Yes, looking back, you can see where it came from, the development of the undercurrent pointing to the ending. But Dick doesn’t smack you in the face with it. He leaves a trail, but doesn’t leave a huge blinking sign. It’s masterful and a joy to read.

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