If you too have been living in a cave, this is a Philip K. Dick novel about Nazis.  It’s set in the 1960s in an alternate history where the Nazis and Japanese won WWII, and conquered and divided the US.  It seems the separation point that the attempted assassination of FDR in 1933 succeeded in this timeline; as a result the US didn’t recover from the Depression and didn’t enter the war until the Nazis had already won in Europe.

It’s pretty much the prototype of a good alternate history novel: it posits a sufficiently major change, it explores the resulting world, and it doesn’t embarrass the historian. 

The Nazis are, of course, fucking insane.  What’s more surprising is the rather sympathetic treatment of the Japanese, who are depicted as straitlaced and fair rulers, obsessed with status but much more civilized and sophisticated than their American subjects.  It’s good conworlding to not have them be monsters; still, I think this depiction would outrage those who were actually ruled by the Japanese– the Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese.

It wouldn’t be Dick if it didn’t have some weirdness (though in general there’s much less strangeness than in his later novels).  One bit is an intense focus on yet another alternate history, written by one of the characters in the story, in which the Allies won, but not quite as they did in our world.

There are also a number of thematic details all connected with fakery and the ambiguity of history; I expect this was intended to deepen the book but I think it does the reverse.  Yes, it’s a fake history, and so what?  Whatever can be said about the unknowability of history, it’d be insane to be uncertain about whether the Allies defeated the Axis or not.

More successful are the ruminations on racism; Dick supposes, correctly I think, that an Axis victory would have been a vindication of the whole 19th century focus on race.  This would have been a much bolder message when the book came out, in 1962.

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