Originally posted to Goodreads April 30, 2016.
I always feel stupid when I can’t engage in hard sci-fi like this, especially when it’s Hugo award-winning and it’s such a celebrated author. I’ve admired movies made from works by Philip K. Dick, although I was rather bored by Blade Runner, and I feel guilty about that, too. I’m supposed to love that movie and then love the director’s cut even more in order to be considered a respectable geek. Well, call me a soft-hearted idiot, but I couldn’t get into Man in the High Castle or other things of its ilk. I didn’t care about the characters. An inherent flaw with sci-fi books that are a little too good at the world-building is that the characters are so far removed from the reality I live in that they don’t even exist on the human plane for me. Perhaps I’m just too Western, but the constant consulting of the I Ching was annoying and felt somewhat pandering, all these Americans suddenly given over completely to a purely Eastern concept. I also couldn’t identify with consulting an oracle and leaving so much in the hands of fortune-telling, not to the wholesale extent these characters do, anyhow. It is an intriguing read. Parts of it interested and engaged me, especially with the alternative, alternative history of The Grasshopper, which almost tells our actual history but is skewed just enough to be quite a curiosity. Otherwise, I wasn’t very engaged. Dick writes much of the book in somewhat of an Asian style, dropping articles left and right and with deferential, face-saving constructs that read pretty sarcastically (that may have been his point). It left me feeling cold and detached, and I just didn’t enjoy it. I need good, identifiable, relatable emotions in my sci-fi, which is kind of rare in the genre. Authors always seem to be presenting their characters as if in a petri dish, there for our studying, but don’t get attached to them because we’re going to discard the specimens later.