is an alternative history novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. Set in 1962, fifteen years after an alternative ending to World War II, the novel concerns intrigues between the victorious Axis Powers—Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany—as they rule over the former United States, as well as daily life under the resulting totalitarian rule. The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963.
I haven't read the novel, and we had resisted dipping into the TV (Amazon) series loosely based on it, until a few evenings ago. We dipped, but not very deeply. Two hour-long episodes convinced us that we didn't want to waste any more time on such a gloomy, terribly depressing, often disturbing, not to mention gratuitously violent, piece of dystopian fiction. Although there's a resistance community in the story, standing up to two ruthless authoritarian governments, without prior knowledge of outcome, a viewer can feel as hopeless as the film's characters themselves.
I did find many of the events in those first two episodes to be almost carbon copies of events in certain World War 2-type movies and novels I can recall, just changes in location, period and characters' names. In those earlier films, though, I knew that it was always going to be "alright in the end".
Main characters in the TV series: a young woman, probably in her mid-twenties and a couple of young men, also around that age would not have many memories of their world before Nazis and Japan took over. Other, older, characters had needed to adjust. Life had to go on. The terrifying sight of abhorrent iconography on buildings, flags, vehicles, along with such alien ideals being normalized is the central discomfiture.
In the TV series the USA, as we know it, is split. The eastern half, as far west as the Rockies is under rulership of the Nazis, while the west coast, and eastward as far as the Rockies is ruled by Japan. There is a rather unwisely planned (but necessary for plot growth) neutral buffer zone around Colorado and the Rocky Mountains area.
I understand that the series compares to the novel only in its broad original premise, and in names of some of the characters. P.K. Dick's original idea was an interesting concept to explore, and while the novel's style and detail must have needed some modification in order to appeal to a 21st century audience, less of the viewer manipulation I've read about in commentary would have been preferable. Viewer manipulation appears to have become the norm these days!
Though I'm unlikely to continue watching Amazon's version of The Man in the High Castle, I do remain curious as to where it seemed to be going with the plot. Rather than subjecting us to more dystopian discomfort, I spent time reading articles and commentary around the net from those who had watched the whole of season 1 and most of newly released second season. A few hints follow - beware, though - they could spoil it for anyone who plans to watch the series in future.
The I Ching is used, in the TV series by one of the more sympathetic of its characters, a Japanese official: Tagomi, the Trade Minister.
[Philip K. Dick] was enamored of the cleromancy of the “I Ching,” and in addition to having his characters in “Man in the High Castle” utilize it, he used it himself to plot the novel, in a kind of extravagant commitment to the themes of his own story.
From Variety HERE
.... reels of banned film [newsreels etc] circulating around the world, depicting alternate [alternative!] histories of what could have happened or might still happen to the world. It is not so different from movies in general — but these films are widely held to be mystical depictions that are absolutely real, not just clever fiction made by someone in the basement. To be fair, they do have chilling real elements that even Hollywood can’t quite produce. In “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,” the reel that becomes the Magical MacGuffin of the first season, San Francisco is depicted being razed by an A-bomb, and a few of the characters see themselves and people they know onscreen, either dying or murdering others.
The first season introduced this supernatural device without, apparently, having much of an idea of where it would go.........The second season lays an interesting foundation and builds up quite a head of steam by the final few episodes — but you can feel the projector sputtering with a kind of desperation as the final hours spool out. Season 2 produces more answers and more action than Season 1 — but those answers are curiously flat, following what has been hours and hours of little more than texture. And it ends with a bait-and-switch that is both too expository and too frustrating, the exact kind of twist you hope a show will not pull.
I've read, regarding the end of the second series, that one of the more troubling aspects of the way the finale plays out is the villainization of the Resistance. (See HERE;) though a commenter at that website thought differently:
The villain-ization of the resistance was actually probably the best thing this show did. American exceptionalism almost always has full permeation of entertainment media. The idea that Americans, especially in "rebel mode" could actually be "bad" never gets explored. Yet we take it for granted with almost all other rebellions everywhere else that it can happen.
Should any passing reader be interested to see Phlip K. Dick's natal chart and a run-down on another movie adaptation of one of his short stories, take a look at an archived post HERE.