A somewhat restrained novel from Dick in which he explores what the world might have been like had the Axis won the war alongside themes he is more usually associated such as the nature of reality.
The story presents fragmented narrative, following an array of disparate but interconnected characters who's actions affect events in not only each other's lives but on a global scale as well.
Germany and Japan are the world's superpowers that divide the world into spheres of influence with America partitioned right down the middle. Some of the characters are individuals highly placed in the regimes and others are the oppressed, conquered people who are trying as best they can to make the best of life. Whilst tensions between the two superpowers are heightening, the lives of the characters are each undergoing transformations in the way they see themselves and their place in society.
An interesting thread running throughout is book within a book, the fictional
novel that imagines what would have happened had the allies won the war. A nice touch is that the book imagines a more utopian vision of the world than what we enjoy reminding us that our world is far from ideal.
In this version of history, American industry is reduced to making replicas of traditional American goods of the pre-war era that are now prized collectibles among the Japanese occupiers. Forgeries abound and, fundamentally, Dick is concerned here with exploring the difference between the real
and the fake
. Does any difference really exist outside of our minds? And if this is true, how much difference is there between this alternate society and ours, outside of our state of mind?
All in all, a very good book and I can see why this is the most highly regarded of Dick's work in literary