Storming the castle

I just finished reading, for the first time, Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle. The initial premise is completely wild in a good way (I won’t spoil it for you), but as I read it I found myself wondering “where can he go with this?” It seemed as though he was writing himself into a corner.

Then, in the very last scene, there was a revelation that was so unexpected, so utterly brilliant in its perfectly logical nuttiness, that it took my breath away. A simple line of dialog spoken by one character to another, and the book I was holding in my hands, that I had just spent several amused and curious hours reading, suddenly took on a completely new and far more interesting meaning.

The experience of encountering such a completely unexpected ending calls into question the implied contract between author and reader. What are the rules when we pick up a novel, meet some characters, start to care about them? What does the author owe to our relationship with these characters? And what does it mean when the author suddenly pulls the rug out from under that relationship?

I have had some bad experiences with sudden literary revelations that shift reality and therefore my relationship to characters, such as the ambitious but misfired film Identity. On the other hand, I have had very positive experiences. Among the films I have seen, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, and several works of Hitchcock come to mind.

But I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like the quietly monumental jolt I got in the last scene of The Man in the High Castle. If you have not yet read it, you are in for a treat.

One Response to “Storming the castle”

  1. sally says:

    I think the line I’m looking for comes in at :21

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