Alternate History

The Man in the High Castle – A Review

the man in the high castle

I read Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel “The Man in the High Castle” whilst I was at university. Truthfully, I went through a bit of a PKD phase, and to this day I still think he was a magnificently talented writer. Though I’m never quite sure if I prefer Robert Heinlein, Dick’s politics at least align more closely with my own.

Anyway, “The Man in the High Castle” was probably my favourite of his novels. I’ve been hearing rumours of attempts to make a TV or film adaptation for a while, and truthfully when I heard that it was going to be one of Amazon’s gimmicky Prime pilots, I was a little disappointed. I would have preferred Netflix, really. They made a fantastic job of House of Cards, and I’m sure they would with this.

But hey, you work with what you have. So this is an hour-long pilot episode for a potential new series to be produced by Amazon Prime (formerly LoveFilm), if the good people of the world vote for it enough for Jeff Bezos to think he can make money off it (Well it can hardly be worse than the Fire Phone, can it? -Ed).

So is it worth investing (your) time and (Amazon’s) money in?

Read on…

“Osama” by Lavie Tidhar – A Review

"Osama" by Lavie Tidhar

(PS Publishing, 280pp, Hardback, £19.99)

It’s incredibly fitting that, as we mark the tenth anniversary of 11th September 2001, Lavie Tidhar’s new novel Osama looks back at the profound effect that it had on the course of history, and what the world might have been like if it didn’t happen.

I’ll start by saying that I enjoyed this novel a lot. Characteristically for Tidhar, it has no qualms about taking on difficult subjects, and manages to set them to an entertaining story.

Osama is set in a world where 9/11, and a number of other terrorist attacks, happened only within the pages of a series of pulp novels, written by mysterious author by the name of Mike Longshott. Enter a private detective, Joe, hired by a mysterious woman to hunt down the author across the world.

The story puts a 50s pulp detective novel  spin on classic alternate history sci-fi, and it’s clear from the off that Tidhar has not only read, but understood and been touched by Phillip K. Dick’s seminal alternative history novel The Man in the High Castle. This is particularly noticeable, and particularly effective, in a scene where Joe takes a drug-induced wander through our London.

As a background to the high ideas and exciting storyline, we are taken on a tour of international locales, from Laos, to London, New York and Afghanistan. The beautiful descriptions hint very strongly of someone who has seen such cities and landscapes with his own eyes- a writer as well travelled as his characters.

There will be people who don’t like this novel. Probably a sizable number of them. Many will think it inappropriate to make Bin Laden the hero of the novels-within-a-novel. Or think that it is too soon to fictionalise an incident which saw 3,000 people dead. They miss the point of Osama. It manages to examine the role of the atrocity in both the direction of recent history, and in our thinking and identities.

Lavie Tidhar is one of my favourite authors, and one of the rising stars of modern science fiction. His fiction is consistently fresh and entertaining, without being vapid. Osama does not disappoint. It is an at times madcap race across a plausible world that could have been, filled with fascinating characters and sometime disturbing images.

If good fiction should aim to entertain, inform and make the reader think, then Tidhar seems to have the formula down. Osama could well be the must-read of 9/11’s tenth anniversary year.