Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

  • THE BOOK
    • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    • Published 1962 and winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel
    • Other works by author include: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, A Scanner Darkly, several other novels and many short stories
      • "Blade Runner", "Total Recall", and "Minority Report" are among the several works adapted for films.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The story is an alternate history where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won World War II. In this world Franklin Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933 just weeks before he became president creating a different timeline. Thus history occurs differently in regards to America's involvement in World War II.
      • Imperial Japan invades the West Coast and Nazi Germany invades the East Coast. The war ends in 1947 after Nazi Germany drops an atomic bomb on Washington D.C.
    • The story itself takes place in 1962 (the year of publication) and takes place in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America, specifically San Francisco, and part in the Mountain States buffer zone between the two powers.
    • The book does not really have a plot per se, but it has a few characters who interact with each other and most people are reading a banned book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which depicts a world where the Allies beat Nazi Germany & Imperial Japan in World War II, similar to ours but not quite the same.
    • A couple of characters meet up and start looking for the author of the book, the titular Man in the High Castle.
    • There is a character who seems able to move among the various alternate histories.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I watched the Amazon Prime series based on the book and LOVED it. There will be a third season later this year. I highly recommend it.
      • Rufus Sewell, most recently seen as Lord Melbourne in the PBS series "Victoria", plays an American Nazi officer (Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith!). He is my new TV boyfriend.
      • None of the Obergruppenfuhrer's plot is included in the book; he is a creation for the TV show. He has a whole family and Muscular Dystrophy factors into his plot.
      • The TV show has a detailed, interwoven plot, with many book characters interacting together and takes place in San Francisco, New York City, Berlin, and a small town in Colorado. There are several added Japanese characters too.
      • The world-building is phenomenal. You alternately find yourself appalled at the actions of the villains and then you are actively rooting for them to survive and succeed. John Smith is alternately a Nazi and a family man. 
        • Hitler, Himmler, and all their pals are still alive in the TV series and book but all up in age. The Nazis have nuclear weapons --- and have used them --- and rocket technology.
      • The science fiction portion, whereby characters move among multiple realities, is more pronounced in the TV series. In the book, however, the Nazis have started exploring and colonizing the solar system.
      • The show is extremely well cast. Standouts include actors Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who plays Mr. Tagomi, Brennan Brown who plays Robert Childan, Chelah Horsdal who plays Helen Smith and Joel de la Fuente who plays Inspector Kido. And Rufus Sewell, of course. But Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans and all the rest are very good too.
      • It has the creepiest version of "Edelweiss" run over the opening credits. Google "Jeanette Olsson Edelweiss" to hear it yourself.
        • I read somewhere that the song "Edelweiss", written for "The Sound of Music", would not have existed in this reality because there would have been no Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about an escape from the Nazis!
    • As for the book, it is more a philosophical experience than a rollicking adventure like the TV series. Here is an interesting quote about it from The Religion of Science Fiction (published in 1986) by Frederick A. Kreuziger:
      • "Neither of the two worlds, however, the revised version of the outcome of WWII nor the fictional account of our present world, is anywhere near similar to the world we are familiar with. But they could be! This is what the book is about. The book argues that this world, described twice, although differently each time, is exactly the world we know and are familiar with. Indeed, it is the only world we know: the world of chance, luck, fate."
      • The book introduces a handful of the same characters depicted in the TV show and you delve deeper into their thoughts as they go through their lives without a lot of crossover with other characters.
      • Many book characters use the I Ching, an ancient Chinese text of fortune telling. Even the author used it to determine the direction of his characters.
    • It's worth a read if you want have a sci-fi classic under your belt. It's beautifully written but not heavily science fiction-y.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

1 comment:

  1. Your TV boyfriend is Rufus Sewell aka John Smith? I always knew you had a thing for Smiths. My TV girlfriend has to be Alexa Davalos. I see there is a Rupert (Evans), too. Any sign of Cordy?

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