3.5 - 4 star novel.
This was typical Phillip K. Dick fare, clever philosophical science fiction contemplating ideas about religion, society and in many ways what it is to be human. It was a well plotted and thought out book with a complicated plot focusing on multiple points of view as they struggle within a harsh society.
The basic premise of this book is that of alternate history. Japan and Nazi Germany won World War 2 and so in 1962 slavery is again legal and the USA have become broken into Japan and Nazi controlled areas. In the midst of this Phillip K. Dick explores several people as they attempt to live in such a harsh environment. The plot also centers around one unique book which questions - what if the Allies had won the war instead. In essence this book half shows the true path history did take.
The plot was brilliantly constructed and well thought out. However I found it hard to truly engage with the characters in the text and so struggled to actually enjoy them as people. It didn't help that one of the few likeable characters Juliana at one stage has a psychotic fit... At which point the writing became hectic and insanely twisted (almost as if the author were writing while psychotic himself). This of course made it difficult to truly like any character. However the plot did serve to show humanity struggling through daily life and I felt that it provided clever parallels with the daily grind of today's modern world.
I do have one more axe to grind though. Phillip K. Dick had the Nazi state possessing highly advanced technology (rockets to travel across borders at super fast speeds and into space, incredible plastics to provide strength for those rockets and so forth) in his text. Personally I believe Japan would have been more likely to possess the technology and the Nazis to be less developed nation. After all fascism is extreme conservatism meaning an obsession with retaining the glories of the past and not pressing on to develop new methods of living. After all the main reason the Nazis did not win the war is that they did not develop enough advanced technology (and they got rid of their most brilliant Jewish scientists). But still that's a minor issue when all is considered.
I fully recommend this book to science fiction fans and to anyone who has already sampled Phillip K. Dick's work. This is a far different work from Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep but was still written with the same style and posing similar philosophical questions.