The Man in the High Castle, Episode One


Cover, First Edition

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE  (1962) is an alternative history novel by Phillip K. Dick, one of my favorite science fiction writers.   In this narrative, the Axis powers have emerged triumphant from World War II, Germany having conquered all of Europe and a good portion of Africa and the former Soviet Union.  Japan has conquered China, the pan Pacific islands and portions of East Asia.  Both powers invaded the North American continent, with Germany inhabiting the East Coast out to the Midwest and Japan inhabiting the West Coast out to the Rocky Mountains.  The year is 1962; an uneasy peace has existed between the two former Axis powers (now modern day Cold War Superpowers).  The Man in the High Castle is in many ways Phillip K. Dick’s most accessible work outside of his short stories and novellas, which I have always preferred to his longer form narratives.  An alternative history novel may not seem all that unique to modern SF Fans but it was quite the thing in 1962, compounded by Dick’s omnipresent themes of reality vs. unreality, and the boundaries of perception influencing the narrative for the POV narrator character.  All of of Dick’s narrators seem flawed to me; no exceptions here.

I had the opportunity to watch Episode 1 of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (streaming video on Demand, Amazon) the other night.  Amazon has started there own independent video on demand service some time ago (I am a fan of the web series BOSCH from the same provider, for instance).   From what I can see the plan is to break the book narrative down into several chapters on Video on Demand.

The plot of the series does not match the book except in the loosest possible terms– the general setting from the book is maintained and the same imminent danger of warfare between the two superpowers is indeed the crisis for both stories.

The visuals are quite stunning and iconographic.

Japanese trade ministers meet the Ambassador for the Reich, San Francisco embassy headquarters.

Time Square is greatly changed in this reality

Life in the Japanese Zone is less rigidly authoritarian, but just as dangerous as the German zone.

The landscape has become subtly different in the German zone.

My initial reqction was very positive.  I feel like the production company has labored long and hard to retain the core themes of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (the book) in the web show.   Some of the plot was changed inexplicably, especially making the Frinks single.  Very early on there is some evidence ( I won’t specify) that the characters are living in a world where something has gone wrong and history has been changed.

The Germans are more advanced in this universe and casually fly about in Rocket planes

Where it goes from here, I have no idea.  But I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far very much.  It has the same close set feel to it the book does, and they don’t overdo the special effects.

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