A Thoughtful Counterfactual Jun 21, 2009
The eponymous man is an author who has written an enormously popular book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which attempts to answer the question, what would have happened if the Allies had won World War II? - a question that can only be answered by the imagination, because in this alternate reality, the Axis won. America is divided into occupational zones controlled by Japanese and German forces, anti-semitic sentiment is rampant, and the I Ching is consulted by people everywhere as a matter of course.
The story takes its time getting off the ground. Initially, it feels like the interconnected plots are just an excuse for Dick to depict his alternate reality, but it gradually becomes apparent that there really is a point to them. There's no hook at the beginning, nothing to grab the reader's interest, but persevering is worth it. This is a good book, and well-written. The style bears little resemblance to that of Dick's characteristic sci-fi novels; in fact, it's obvious that he consciously altered his style for the purpose of writing this book, transformed it into the sort of broken English riddled with sentence fragments that might have become the norm under Japanese and German influence. The change is evident, but, with few exceptions, not overdone to the point where it might impede the reader's understanding. From that, as well as the terminology, history, and cultural references, it's apparent that Dick put a great deal of thought and effort into this novel.