The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle  
The Man in the High Castle.jpg
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
Author(s) Philip K. Dick
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Alternate history
Publisher Putnam
Publication date 1 January 1962
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 239
OCLC Number 145507009

The Man in the High Castle (1962) is a science fiction alternate history novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. It won a Hugo Award in 1963[1][2] and has since been translated into many languages.

The story of The Man in the High Castle, about daily life under totalitarian Fascist imperialism, occurs in 1962, fourteen years after the end of a longer Second World War (1939–1948 in this history). The victorious Axis Powers — Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany — are conducting intrigues against each other in North America, specifically in the former U.S., which surrendered to them once they had conquered Eurasia and destroyed the populaces of Africa.[3]


Plot summary


Giuseppe Zangara's assassination of U.S. President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1933, led to the weak governments of John Nance Garner (formerly FDR's VP-elect), and later of the Republican John W. Bricker in 1940. Both politicians failed to surmount the Great Depression and maintained the country's isolationist policy against participating in the Second World War; thus, the U.S. had insufficient military capabilities to assist the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, or to defend itself against Japan in the Pacific.

In 1941, the Nazis conquered the USSR and then exterminated most of its Slavic peoples; the few whom they allowed to live were confined to reservations. In the Pacific, the Japanese destroyed the entire U.S. Navy fleet in a decisive, definitive attack on Pearl Harbor; thereafter, the superior Japanese military conquered Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania during the early forties. Afterward, the Axis Powers, each attacking from opposite fronts, conquered the coastal United States, and, by 1948, the United States and other remaining Allied forces surrendered to the Axis.

Japan established the puppet Pacific States of America out of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, parts of Nevada and Washington as part of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. The remaining Mountain, Great Plains and Southwestern states became the Rocky Mountain States, a buffer between the PSA and the remaining USA, now a Nazi puppet state in the style of Vichy France. Having defeated the Allies of World War II, the Third Reich and Imperial Japan became the resultant superpowers of their world and consequently embarked upon a Cold War.

One of the core narrative elements (Operation Dandelion) is centred on a pre-emptive Nazi nuclear strike on the Japanese Home Islands. The Nazis "have the hydrogen bomb" and the ability to wipe out the Home Islands. Their nuclear energy capabilities also fuel extremely fast air travel and the colonization of the moon, Venus and Mars.

After Adolf Hitler's syphilitic incapacitation, Martin Bormann, as Nazi Party Chancellor, assumes power as Führer of Germany. Bormann proceeds to create a colonial empire to increase Germany's Lebensraum by using technology to drain the Mediterranean Sea and convert it into farmland (see Atlantropa), while sending spaceships to colonize Mars and other parts of the Solar System in the name of the Reich.

As the novel begins, Führer Bormann dies, initiating an internal power struggle between Joseph Goebbels, Reinhard Heydrich, Hermann Göring and other top Nazis to succeed him as Reichskanzler.

The political world in the novel.


The Man in the High Castle contains a loose collection of characters. Some of them know each other, while others are connected in more indirect ways as they all cope with living under totalitarianism. Three characters guide their lives based on the I Ching:

  • Nobusuke Tagomi is a trade missioner in Japanese San Francisco. To start with, the reader is let in to his world only slightly, this character doesn't intend to be a big part of the story but events unfold in a way that drags him in the center pages.
  • Frank Frink works for the Wyndham–Matson Corporation, which specializes in reproductions of pre-war Americana artifacts; he is fired for showing his temper. He is a secret Jew ( Fink) who hides to avoid extermination in a Nazi camp. He is a veteran of the Pacific War.
  • Juliana Frink, a judo instructor, is Frank's ex-wife. After an initially short introduction her character evolves throughout the rest of the book to her becoming a very central plot piece. She is also used throughout the book by a hired assassin.

Others believe different things:

  • Robert Childan owns American Artistic Handcrafts, an Americana antiques business supplied by Wyndham–Matson Inc. He believes the items genuine; Tagomi is one of his best customers, who buys "gifts" for himself and for visiting businessmen. Given his mostly Japanese clientele, Childan has adopted their manners, Anglicised modes of speech, and ways of thinking, yet, despite his surface deference to the Japanese, he is contemptuous of them, privately retaining his pre-war white supremacy — believing in the essential inferiority of the non-white Asian and African races. Nonetheless, he is very conscious of his image, often deliberating, to himself, in the Asian mentality, how his actions might appear to others.
  • Wyndham-Matson (Frank Frink's boss) muses about the difference between a real antique and a reproduction antique; via his mistress, he introduces the novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy to the plot and is the plot device used to show the initial difference of opinions in the novel, the differing opinions being those that believe The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is merely a work of good fiction, and those that believe it shows something more (a theme that reaches its climax at the end of the novel).
  • Mr. Baynes, a wealthy Swedish industrialist, is actually Rudolf Wegener, a Captain in Reich Naval Counter-Intelligence, who is en route to meet Tagomi, through whom he expects to meet an important Japanese representative. He is taken aback by Tagomi's gift of a "genuine Mickey Mouse watch" (bought at the American Artistic Handicrafts Inc. shop).


The narrative storylines of the plot alternate among those of the characters, providing a broad picture of quotidian life in totalitarian America:

  • Baynes travels undercover to San Francisco, as a Swedish merchant. There, he talks with Tagomi, but, in pursuit of his true mission, must prolong their meeting until the arrival, from Japan, of Mr. Yatabe (General Tedeki, formerly of the Imperial General Staff). His mission is to warn the Japanese of Operation Löwenzahn (Operation Dandelion), a nuclear attack upon the Japanese Archipelago Home Islands planned by Joseph Goebbels's faction within the ruling Nazi Party and opposed by Heydrich's faction.
  • Frank Frink and his friend Ed McCarthy start a jewelry business; their beautiful, original art works strangely affect the Americans and Japanese who see them. He is arrested after his attempted sabotage of Wyndham-Matson — by telling Childan that the items of Americana he sells are fake.
  • Tagomi, unable to acknowledge the unpleasant rumors he has heard, finds solace in action, fighting the Nazi agents attempting to kill Baynes; he uses the "authentic" Colt U.S. Army revolver bought from Childan. Then, he retaliates against local Nazi authority, by directing the release of the Jew Frank Frink, who was bound for deportation to Nazi America. Tagomi and Frink never meet, nor does he know that Frank Frink created the beautiful artwork that so impressed him; however, as a devout Buddhist, the existential implications of deliberately taking a human life so bother him they provoke a heart attack.
  • Juliana, living in Colorado, begins a sexual relationship with Joe, a truck driver claiming to be an Italian war veteran. He wants to meet Hawthorne Abendsen (the titular Man in the High Castle, so called, because he allegedly lives in a guarded residence), who wrote the novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Juliana travels with him, but discovers that he is actually a Swiss assassin meaning to kill the writer; she attempts to leave, but he bars her way. Distressed beyond reason, Juliana cuts Joe's throat with the straight razor which she had considered using to commit suicide. She completes the journey alone, meets author Abendsen, and induces him to reveal the truth about The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.
  • Robert Childan desperately attempts to retain his honor despite the forced obsequiousness towards the Japanese overlords. Although ambivalent about the lost war and foreign occupiers of his country, whom he loathes and respects, he discovers a sense of cultural pride in himself. He also investigates the widespread forgery in the antiques market amid increased Japanese interest in genuine Americana.


Several characters in The Man in the High Castle read the popular novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, by Hawthorne Abendsen, whose title, putatively, derives from the Bible verse: "The grasshopper shall be a burden" (Ecclesiastes 12:5). It is a novel within a novel, wherein Abendsen posits an alternative universe where the Axis lost WWII (1939–1948), for which reason the Germans banned it in the occupied U.S., despite its being a widely-read book in the Pacific and its publication being legal in the neutral countries.

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy postulates that President Franklin D. Roosevelt survives assassination and forgoes re-election in 1940, honoring George Washington's two-term limit. The next president, Rexford Tugwell, removes the U.S. Pacific fleet from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saving it from Japanese attack, and ensuring that the U.S. enters World War II a well-equipped naval power. Great Britain retains most of its military-industrial strength, contributing more to the Allied war effort, leading to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's defeat in North Africa; a British advance through the Caucasus to guide the Soviets to victory in the Battle of Stalingrad; Italy reneging on its membership in and betrayal of the Axis Powers; British armor and the Red Army jointly conquering Berlin; and, at the end of the war, the Nazi leaders — including Adolf Hitler — being tried for their war crimes; the Führer's last words are Deutsche, hier steh' ich ("Germans, here I stand"), in imitation of the priest Martin Luther.

Post-war, Churchill remains Britain's leader; and, because of its military-industrial might, the British Empire does not collapse; the USA establishes strong business relations with Chiang Kai-shek's right-wing regime in China, after vanquishing the Communist Mao Zedong. The British Empire becomes racist and more expansionist post-war, while the U.S. outlaws Jim Crow, resolving its racism by the 1950s. Both changes provoke racialist-cultural tensions between the US and the UK, leading them to a Cold War for global hegemony between the two vaguely liberal, democratic, capitalist societies. Although the end of the novel is never depicted in the text, one character claims the book ends with the British Empire eventually defeating the US, becoming the world's only superpower.

The I Ching as literary device

Dick used the philosophic I Ching (Book of Changes) to determine the plot particulars of The Man in the High Castle, explaining:

"I started with nothing but the name, Mister Tagomi, written on a scrap of paper, no other notes. I had been reading a lot of Oriental philosophy, reading a lot of Zen Buddhism, reading the I Ching. That was the Marin County zeitgeist, at that point; Zen Buddhism and the I Ching. I just started right out and kept on trucking."[4] In the event, he blamed the I Ching for plot incidents he disliked: "When it came to close down the novel, the I Ching had no more to say. So, there's no real ending on it. I like to regard it as an open ending".[5]

The I Ching is prominent in The Man in the High Castle; having diffused it as part of their cultural hegemony overlordship of the Pacific Coast U.S., the Japanese — and some American — characters consult it, and then act per its replies to their queries. Specifically, "The Man in the High Castle", Hawthorne Abendsen, himself, used it to write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, and, at story's end, in his presence, Juliana Frink, queries the I Ching: "Why did it write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?" and "What is the reader to learn from the novel?" The I Ching replies with Hexagram 61 ([中孚] zhōng fú) Chung Fu, "Inner Truth", describing the true state of the world—every character in The Man in the High Castle is living a false reality.


The interpretation and confusion of true and false realities is the principal theme of The Man in the High Castle; it is explored several ways:

  • Robert Childan grasps that most of his antiques are counterfeit, thus, becomes paranoid that his entire stock might be counterfeit; a theme common to Dick's writing (cf. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), wherein the counterfeit is better than the original, because it is functionally real, e.g. the .44 caliber Colt Army Model 1860 revolver indistinguishable by anyone but an expert armorer, as Tagomi's shoot-out demonstrates.
  • Wyndham-Matson, himself a collector, has a Zippo cigarette lighter with documentation attesting to its having been in FDR's coat pocket when he was assassinated. He compares it with another similar lighter, inviting her to "feel the historicity", despite, of course, his fortune depending upon genuine counterfeits.
  • Several characters are secret agents traveling under assumed persona and pretenses; the gentile "Frank Frink" is the counterfeit persona of the Jew "Frank Fink".
The Man in the High Castle, 2001 Penguin Classics edition, cover by James P. Keenan.
  • The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the book-within-a-book, postulates an alternative universe where the Axis lost World War II to the Allies, albeit with an alternative sequence of events. It is an alternative history analogue of The Man in the High Castle. The interpenetration of two false realities illustrates that the idea of a false and a true reality is inaccurate, because there exist more than two realities.
  • The Edfrank jewelry more resembles 1960s American folk art than it does Japanese and German art; its connections with deeper reality manifested in the effect exerted upon the characters who handle it.
  • Novelist Hawthorne Abendsen, the titular Man in the High Castle, lives in a house after having lived in a castle (fortified house) that was more prison than home, yet, for the sake of perception (false reality) he perpetuates the myth of his fortified isolation.
  • At the end of the novel, Hawthorne Abendsen and Juliana Frink consult the I Ching — it tells them they are living in an immaterial (false) world.
  • Tagomi briefly perceives an alternative world upon meditating over a pin containing a Wu (Satori) form of "inner truth"; said Frank Frink artifact transports him to a San Francisco city where white folk do not defer to the Japanese, possibly the world of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. In this world the Embarcadero Freeway runs through downtown San Francisco, whereas in Tagomi's world it does not exist. This suggests that the world might in fact be our own.
  • In Operation Dandelion, a false need for military action in the Rocky Mountain States is used to hide an attack on mainland Japan.

The authorial Dick asks: "Who, and what, are the agents behind this interpenetration of true and false realities?" and "Why do those agents desire that the artifice of said realities be recognized?" These thematic questions also feature in the novels Ubik, VALIS, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.

The Man in the High Castle deals with justice and injustice (Frink flees Nazi racist persecution); gender and power (the relationship between Juliana and Joe); the shame of cultural inferiority and identity (Childan's new-found confidence in American culture via his limited nostalgia and obsession with antiques); and the effects of fascism and racism upon culture (the devaluation of life under Nazi world totalitarianism and the presumptions of Japanese, German, and American racial superiority), cf. cultural hegemony.


Later, Dick explained he conceived The Man in the High Castle from reading Bring the Jubilee (1953), by Ward Moore, which occurs in an alternative twentieth-century U.S. wherein the Confederate States of America won the American Civil War in the 1860s. In the acknowledgments, he mentions other influences: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), by William L. Shirer; Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962), by Alan Bullock; The Goebbels Diaries (1948), Louis P. Lochner, translator; Foxes of the Desert (1960), by Paul Carrell; and the I Ching (1950), Richard Wilhelm, translator.[6]

The acknowledgments have three references to traditional Japanese and Tibetan poetic forms; (i) volume one of the Anthology of Japanese Literature (1955), Donald Keene editor, from which is cited the haiku in page 48; (ii) from Zen and Japanese Culture (1955), by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, from which is cited a waka in page 135; and (iii) the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1960), by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, translator.

Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) is also mentioned in the text, written before the Roosevelt assassination divergence point that separated the world of Man in the High Castle from our own. In this novella, "Miss Lonelyhearts" is a male newspaper journalist who writes anonymous responses as an agony aunt to forlorn readers during the height of the Great Depression. "Miss Lonelyhearts" tries to find consolation in religion, casual sex, rural vacations and work, none of which provide him with the sense of authenticity and engagement with the outside world that he needs. Given that West's book is about the elusive quality of interpersonal relationships and quest for personal meaning at a time of political turmoil within the United States, its underlying narrative design may be seen as a mise en abyme that parallels that of Man in the High Castle[7]


Avram Davidson praised the novel as "a superior work of fiction," citing Dick's use of the I Ching as "fascinating." Davidson concluded that "It's all here -- extrapolation, suspense, action, art, philosophy, plot, [and] character."[8]



An audiobook version of The Man in the High Castle was released in 2008 by Blackstone Audio. The audiobook, read by Tom Weiner, is unabridged and runs approximately 8.5 hours over 7 CDs.[9][10] A previous Man in the High Castle audiobook — read by George Guidall, unabridged, approximately 9.5 hours over 7 audio cassettes — was released in 1997.[11]


The BBC have commissioned a four-part adaptation of The Man in the High Castle for BBC One which will be made by the BBC, FremantleMedia Enterprises and Scott Free Films. Ridley Scott, who directed Blade Runner, a loose adaptation of another Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, will act as executive producer. The series will be adapted by Howard Brenton.[12]


In a 1976 interview, Dick said he planned to write a sequel novel to The Man in the High Castle: "And so there's no real ending on it. I like to regard it as an open ending. It will segue into a sequel sometime." Dick said that he had "started several times to write a sequel", but progressed little, because he was too disturbed by his original research for The Man in the High Castle and could not mentally bear "to go back and read about Nazis again."[5] He suggested that the sequel would be a collaboration with another author: "Somebody would have to come in and help me do a sequel to it. Someone who had the stomach for the stamina to think along those lines, to get into the head; if you're going to start writing about Reinhard Heydrich, for instance, you have to get into his face. Can you imagine getting into Reinhard Heydrich's face?"[5]

Two chapters of the proposed sequel were published in a collection of essays about Dick titled The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (ISBN 0-679-74787-7). The chapters describe Gestapo officers reporting to Nazi Party officials about their time-travel visits to a parallel world in which the Nazi conquest has failed, but which contains nuclear weapons, available for the stealing by the Nazis back to their world. Ring of Fire, describing the emergence of a hybrid Japanese–American culture, was a working title for the novel.

On occasion, Dick said that 1967's The Ganymede Takeover began as a sequel to The Man in the High Castle, but that it did not coalesce as such; specifically, the Ganymedans occupying the Earth began as the Imperial Japanese occupying the conquered U.S.

Dick's novel Radio Free Albemuth also started as a sequel to The Man in the High Castle.[13] Dick described the plot of this early version of Radio Free Albemuth — then titled VALISystem A — writing: "... a divine and loving ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence] ... help[s] Hawthorne Abendsen, the protagonist-author in [The Man in the High Castle], continue on in his difficult life after the Nazi secret police finally got to him... VALISystem A, located in deep space, sees to it that nothing, absolutely nothing, can prevent Abendsen from finishing his novel."[13] The novel eventually evolved into a new story unrelated to The Man in the High Castle, and Dick ultimately abandoned the book and it went unpublished during his lifetime. Portions of it were salvaged and used for 1981's VALIS; the full book was not published until 1985, three years after Dick's death.



  1. ^ "Philip K. Dick, Won Awards For Science-Fiction Works". The New York Times. March 3, 1982. Retrieved March 30, 2010. "Mr. Dick, author of 35 novels and 6 collections of short stories, received the Hugo Award in 1963 for The Man in the High Castle and, in 1974, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said." 
  2. ^ "1963 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  3. ^ Pringle 1990, p. 193.
  4. ^ Philip K. Dick's Final Interview, June 1982 John Boonstra, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 3, June 1982, pp. 47-52
  5. ^ a b c "Hour 25: A Talk With Philip K. Dick". Archived from the original on 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  6. ^ Dick 1962, pp. ix-x.
  7. ^ Nathaniel West: Miss Lonelyhearts: New York: Liveright: 1933
  8. ^ "Books", F&SF, June 1963, p.61
  9. ^ THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE - Blackstone Audiobooks ISBN 9781433228179
  10. ^ AudioFile audiobook review: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE By Philip K. Dick, Read by Tom Weiner
  11. ^ Review of The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick : SFFaudio
  12. ^ Sweney, Mark (7 October, 2010). "Ridley Scott to return to work of sci-fi icon for BBC mini-series". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 October, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b A Possible Man in the High Castle Sequel? Tony Pfarrer, The Palm Tree Garden of Philip K. Dick, Philip K. Dick at Alphane Moon


  • Brown, William Lansing 2006. "Alternate Histories: Power, Politics, and Paranoia in Philip Roth's The Plot against America and Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle", The Image of Power in Literature, Media, and Society: Selected Papers, 2006 Conference, Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery. Wright, Will (ed.); Kaplan, Steven (ed.); Pueblo, CO: Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery, Colorado State University-Pueblo; pp. 107–11.
  • Campbell, Laura E. 1992. "Dickian Time in The Man in the High Castle", Extrapolation, 33: 3, pp. 190–201.
  • Carter, Cassie 1995. "The Metacolonization of Dick's The Man in the High Castle: Mimicry, Parasitism and Americanism in the PSA", Science-Fiction Studies #67, 22:3, pp. 333–342.
  • Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1995). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 1386. ISBN 0-312134-86-X. 
  • Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (1995). The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Danbury, CT: Grolier. pp. CD–ROM. ISBN 0-7172-3999-3. 
  • DiTommaso, Lorenzo, 1999. "Redemption in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle", Science-Fiction Studies # 77, 26: , pp. 91–119.
  • Fofi, Goffredo 1997. "Postfazione", Philip K. Dick, La Svastica sul Sole, Roma, Fanucci, pp. 391–5.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine 1983. "Metaphysics and Metafiction in The Man in the High Castle", Philip K. Dick eds. Olander and Greenberg New York, Taplinger, 1983, pp. 53–71.
  • Jakubowski, Maxim; Edwards, Malcolm (1983). The Complete Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy Lists. St Albans, Herts, UK: Granada Publishing Ltd.. pp. 350. ISBN 0-586-05678-5. 
  • Malmgren, Carl D. 1980. "Philip Dick's The Man in the High Castle and the Nature of Science Fictional Worlds", Bridges to Science Fiction, eds. George E. Slusser, George R. Guffey and Mark Rose, Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 120–30.
  • Nicholls, Peter (1979). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. St Albans, Herts, UK: Granada Publishing Ltd.. pp. 672. ISBN 0-586-05380-8. 
  • Pagetti, Carlo, 2001a. "La svastica americana" [Introduction], Philip K. Dick, L'uomo nell'alto castello, Roma: Fanucci, pp. 7–26.
  • Pringle, David (1990). The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction. London: Grafton Books Ltd.. pp. 407. ISBN 0-246-13635-9. 
  • Proietti, Salvatore, 1989. "The Man in The High Castle: politica e metaromanzo", Il sogno dei simulacri, eds. Carlo Pagetti and Gianfranco Viviani, Milano, Nord, 1989 pp. 34–41.
  • Rieder, John 1988. "The Metafictive World of The Man in the High Castle: Hermeneutics, Ethics, and Political Ideology", Science-Fiction Studies # 45, 15.2: 214-25.
  • Rossi, Umberto, 2000. "All Around the High Castle: Narrative Voices and Fictional Visions in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle", Telling the Stories of America - History, Literature and the Arts - Proceedings of the 14th AISNA Biennial conference (Pescara, 1997), eds. Clericuzio, A., Annalisa Goldoni and Andrea Mariani, Roma: Nuova Arnica, pp. 474–83.
  • Simons, John L. 1985. "The Power of Small Things in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle". The Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, 39:4, pp. 261–75.
  • Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. pp. 136. ISBN 0-911682-20-1. 
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