One of the more captivating television series on Amazon Prime is The Man in the High Castle. It draws its premise from Philip K Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name. Whenever it comes to Philip K Dick, you can expect some good science fiction with a particular focus on dystopian alternates realities, think Blade Runner or Minority Report. The Man in the High Castle is no different but for many, at least you will have a foundation of what the world is like.
The Man in the High Castle is a grim alternate reality where the Nazis and Japanese are the victors in World War II. There is little around how the Nazis manage to defeat all the other world powers, but it is clear that the Nazis played the bigger role in shaping the world post-World War II.
In this grim world, the television series takes center stage in an alternate United States, where most of the east and mid-west are occupied by the Nazis under the Greater Nazi Reich and the far west are occupied by the Japanese under the Japanese Pacific States. Between these two states is a neutral zone that is control by neither country, but it is a resting ground for the coming conflict. With a premise based on these two conquering nations, needless to say that the “peace” between the Nazis and Japanese is superficial and the warmongers are out to look for ways to invade the other.
In this grim reality, it is made clear that the Nazis have the technological advantage over the Pons (Nippon, i.e. Japanese) in having an atomic bomb (called a Heisenberg device, which was used to level Washington D.C. in the last war) and among having other technological feats, also having jet planes with the long nose as passenger planes.
The television series isn’t all based in reality, it contains some magical, mythical elements in the form of the “films” and the ability for some of its characters to travel between realities. The “films” serve as an initial device where Adolf Hitler, still alive at the start of the television series, is searching for them due to their ability to showcase a world different to the one in The Man in the High Castle. Many of these “films” are part of the “The Man in the High Castle” collection, which obviously are films from other realities but manage to be circulated into the wider world. These films depict alternate histories that exist in other realities. To people like Hitler, these films are obviously dangerous, since some depict the actual events in history where the Allies actually win the war. As an audience member, following these events is actually interesting if you are familiar with what happens in real life, in the real World War II.
I’ll just mention that the other, albeit less interesting device is that certain people have the ability to travel between realities. While interesting, it uses magical, mythical elements to explain away a lot of things that would have been better as secrets or unexplained mysteries.
The world building in the series is very good. It is very interesting to see what it could have been like for people to live in a world where the Axis Powers win World War II and how the cities in the United States have this grim feel to them. The Japanese Pacific States look like they are in a state is disrepair, while the Nazi Greater Reich appears too orderly and clean but drab and boring. In this dystopia, it is readily apparent that the only winners in this world are the Germans and the Japanese, everyone else seems to be a second class citizen. Women in the Nazi dominated realms appear to take a more subservient role, while obviously anyone who is a undesirable has to hide in plain sight, such as Jewish people.
The story follows a group of people living in the former United States. Their stories intertwine due to their involvement with the Resistance and their desire to find all the “films”. Many of the characters are quite interesting to follow as they each have their flaws and reasons for getting involved in the plot, but the most interesting would have to John Smith. He is a genuine Nazi and has a rank within the top echelon and its quite interesting to see the power plays at the top brass.
Alternate histories are interesting as they show a world that we wouldn’t know about. The Man in the High Castle is captivating television and it does a good job keeping up the suspense even into season two where things really start to pick up. It’s worth diving into if you like World War II.
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