Holy shit! It's Amazon Pilot Season today and they made a tv show out of The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick! Somehow this escaped my attention until today.

Spoiler Warning.

This is one of my favorite science fiction novels. It is an alternate history novel where the Axis powers won World War II. The story takes place in the 1960s in an America divided between Germany and Japan with a Rocky Mountain states buffer between them. The backdrop to the story is the Germans planning a nuclear surprise attack on the Japanese. The I Ching, an Eastern divination method, reveals an alternate world the Allies won and a cold war develops between the U.S. and the British Empire instead of Nazi German and Japan (or the U.S. and U.S.S.R.). I've mulled over this novel for years.

The first order interpretation of the story is that the better world revealed by the I Ching is our world, the real world, since the initial description more closely matches reality. But later details reveal it is a world that has experienced a return to the Anglo-American state of Cold War that preceded the Great Rapprochement. Dick's writing often includes themes of counterfeit reality and that was his aim in the Nazi/Japanese-reality. I tend to think of it less as a phony reality and more as being an imperfect, less-ideal reality in somewhere on the spectrum of many-worlds interpretation. It's less perfect because the alliance that won World War II, the Axis Powers, were not ideal and the consequence of that is nuclear war.

The "ideal" world the I Ching points to is the Anglo-British one and my interpretation of the narrative is that it implies our world, circa the 1960s, was destined for the same nuclear fate since the powers locked in cold war are less ideal (i.e., sympatico) than an Anglo-American one.

But how was the pilot? Wired and others are right that it is excellent, though I can't speak for the other pilots yet to verify Wired's claim that it is the only worthwhile pilot.

The writer's have made some savvy changes to the storyline. The most notable one to me was The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. In the novel Hawthorne Abendsen (the Man who is in the High Castle, i.e. a safe house in Colorado) uses the I Ching to make reveal the other reality and puts them in a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. In the TV show, it is a a film real showing D-Day and other clips from the end of our World War II. Once I saw it, the change seemed brilliantly obvious to make use of a visual medium, though I do wonder how the I Ching would transmit film from one world to the next...

In look and feel it reminds me of Watchmen, with the heavy-handed use of CGI to present altered landmarks like a Nazified Times Square or a Nazi Embassy in what looked like the Presidio of San Francisco. The cast is also good, with Rufus Sewell (Dark City, Kenneth Brannaugh's Hamlet), DJ Qualls (Road Trip, Hustle & Flow) being familiar faces.

I'm looking forward to this being renewed.

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