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Friday, January 16, 2015

The Man In the High Castle: A Review


Welcome to New York, just not the one you remember. 

Yesterday, I had the time to sit down and check out Amazon's latest exclusive series pilot for their adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle." In the novel and the series, the Axis powers (Germany specifically) have won the race for the Atomic-Bomb, and nuked Washington D.C. invaded the US and the UK and won the war. The pilot takes place some 28 years after the allied surrender, the Fuhrer is growing old and developing Parkinson's. With Hitler's impending demise on the horizon, and the prospect of a Goering led Reich; the Japanese are ever more concerned that the next A-Bomb will be meant for Tokyo. 

Setting...

The episode focuses on the Americans (Europe is not shown) who live in a country divided between the Germans (the Greater Reich) and Japanese (the Japanese Pacific States), with a large swath along the Rockies acting as a neutral buffer zone. (Although you should note, that while the "buffer zone is neutral" the Germans maintain a brutal system of wild west style Marshals in the area.) The German zone of control is far larger then the Japanese stretching from the est cost of the US to approximately the western border of Oklahoma. 

Characters...

The main American characters are all in one way or another involved in the American resistance, and each in their own time come into contact with a film which the Nazis have banned. (More on that in a bit.) While the Axis characters are your typical brutal totalitarians. The actors are mostly very good TV faces you may have seen before. With the primary SS character played by the hugely underrated Rufus Sewell. Overall the acting was very good, on par with any film or high production value series on American TV right now.

Plot... 99% spoiler free...

The main plot of the pilot episode is driven by two of the main American characters, a man from New York, and a woman form San Francisco. Each has in their own way become entangled with the resistance, and found them selves on separate missions to deliver copies of the subversive film, "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy (the film's title is a reference Ecclesiastes 12:5) to the Rocky Mountain Buffer Zone. The film created by the titular Man in the High Castle, is a story within the story, an alternate history of alternate history, depicting the Allied victory over the Axis. Given it's subject matter you can see why the Axis powers, will stop at nothing to prevent it's distribution.

Without spoiling the experience for first time viewers, or folks who have not read the novel, there's really not much more to say on the plot, as it is only a single episode of a planed series. And despite it's brilliant world building, amazing visuals, and brief actions scenes, very little story actually takes place, leaving you longing to binge watch the whole season, which sadly does not yet exist.

Final thoughts...

You can see "The man in The High Castle" on Amazon instant video, if your a Prime member in the US it's free to stream right now. I'm not sure about availability outside of the US, but if you can watch it and your a fan of alt-history it is defiantly worth checking out.

Personally, I really hope this series gets picked up, there is so much more to explore in Dick's alt-history America.