The Man in the High Castle
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
The Man in the High Castle (1962) is an alternate 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—primarily, 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. Beginning in 2015, the book was adapted as a multi-season TV series, with Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, serving as one of the show's producers.
Reported inspirations include Ward Moore's alternate Civil War history, Bring the Jubilee (1953), various classic World War II histories, and the I Ching (referred to in the novel). The novel features a "novel within the novel" comprising an alternate history within this alternate history wherein the Allies defeat the Axis (though in a manner distinct from the actual historical outcome).
In the novel's alternate history, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was assassinated by Giuseppe Zangara in 1934 leading to the continuation of the Great Depression and US isolationism during the opening of World War II. Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany to conquer most of Europe and the Soviet Union, murdering Jews, Roma, Slavs, and other groups. Meanwhile, Imperial Japan occupied Eastern Asia and Oceania. The Nazis then, with help of their allies, conquered most of Africa. As Japan invaded the US West Coast, Germany invaded the US East Coast. By 1947, the US and the remaining Allies surrendered to the Axis, ending the war.
By the 1960s, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are the world's competing superpowers, with Japan establishing the "Pacific States of America" (P.S.A.) from the former Western United States and the remaining Rocky Mountain States being a neutral buffer zone between the P.S.A. and the Nazi-occupied former Eastern United States. In the East, there are two countries: "The South" is a racist puppet regime which collaborates with the Nazis. The United States of America still exist by name in the Northeast of the former territory and are controlled by a German military governor. For unexplained reasons, Canada remains independent despite being part of the Allies.
Hitler, though still alive, is incapacitated from advanced syphilis, and Martin Bormann has become Chancellor of Germany, with Goebbels, Heydrich, Göring, Seyss-Inquart (who oversees the extermination of the peoples of Africa), and other Nazi leaders soon vying to take his place. The Nazis have drained the Mediterranean to make room for farmland, developed and used the hydrogen bomb, and designed rockets for extremely fast travel across the world as well as space, having colonized the Moon, Venus, and Mars. The novel is set mostly in San Francisco. Here, Chinese residents first appear in the novel as second-class citizens and black people are slaves. The secondary setting of the novel is the Rocky Mountains States, namely the cities of Cañon City, Denver and Cheyenne.
In 1962, fifteen years after Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany have won World War II, Robert "Bob" Childan owns an Americana antique shop in San Francisco, California (located in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America), which is most commonly frequented by the Japanese, who make a fetish of romanticized American cultural artifacts. Childan is contacted by Nobusuke Tagomi, a high-ranking Japanese trade official, who is seeking a gift to impress a visiting Swedish industrialist named Baynes. Childan's store is stocked in part with counterfeit antiques from the Wyndam-Matson Corporation, a metalworking company. Frank Frink (formerly Fink), a secretly Jewish-American veteran of World War II, has just been fired from the Wyndam-Matson factory, when he agrees to join a former coworker to begin a handcrafted jewelry business. Meanwhile, Frink's ex-wife, Juliana, works as a judo instructor in Canon City, Colorado (in the neutral buffer zone of Mountain States), where she begins a sexual relationship with an Italian truck driver and ex-soldier, Joe Cinnadella. Throughout the book, many of these characters frequently make important decisions using prophetic messages they interpret from the I Ching, a Chinese cultural import. Many characters are also reading a widely banned yet extremely popular new novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which depicts an alternate history in which the Allies won World War II in 1947, a concept that amazes and intrigues its readers.
Frink reveals that the Wyndam-Matson Corporation has been supplying Childan with counterfeit antiques, which effectively works to blackmail Wyndam-Matson for money to finance Frink's new jewelry venture. Tagomi and Baynes meet, but Baynes repeatedly delays any real business as they await an expected third party from Japan. Suddenly, the public receives news of the death of the recently-ill Chancellor of Germany, Martin Bormann. Childan tentatively, on consignment, takes some of Frink's "authentic" new metalwork and attempts to curry favor with a Japanese client, who surprisingly considers Frink's jewelry immensely spiritually alive. Juliana and Joe take a road trip to Denver, Colorado, and Joe impulsively decides they should go on a side-trip to meet the mysterious Hawthorne Abendsen, author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, who supposedly lives in a guarded fortress-like estate called the "High Castle" in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Soon, Joseph Goebbels is announced as the new German Chancellor.
Baynes and Tagomi finally meet their Japanese contact as the Nazi secret police, the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), close in to arrest Baynes, who is revealed to be a Nazi defector named Rudolf Wegener. Wegener warns his contact, a famed Japanese general, of Operation Dandelion, an upcoming Goebbels-approved plan for the Nazis to launch a surprise attack on the Japanese Home Islands, in order to obliterate them in one swift stroke. As Frink is elsewhere exposed as a Jew and arrested, Wegener and Tagomi are confronted by two SD agents, both of whom Tagomi shoots dead with an antique American pistol. Back in Colorado, Joe abruptly changes his appearance and mannerisms before the trip to the High Castle, leading Juliana to deduce that he intends to murder Abendsen. Joe confirms this, revealing himself to be an undercover Swiss Nazi assassin. Juliana mortally wounds Joe and drives off to warn Abendsen of the threat to his life.
Wegener flies back to Germany and learns that Reinhard Heydrich (a member of the anti-Dandelion faction) has launched a coup against Goebbels, possibly installing himself as Chancellor. Meanwhile, Tagomi remains shaken by the shootout and goes to Childan to sell back the gun he used in the fight; instead, sensing the energy from one of Frink's jewelry items, Tagomi impulsively buys it from Childan. Tagomi then undergoes a spiritually intense experience during which he momentarily perceives an alternative-history version of San Francisco. Later, Tagomi on a whim forces the German authorities to release Frink, whom Tagomi has never met and does not know is the maker of the jewelry. Juliana soon has her own spiritual experience when she arrives in Cheyenne. There, she discovers that Abendsen now lives in a normal house with his family, having left behind the High Castle due to a change of outlook; he no longer preoccupies himself with thoughts that he might soon be assassinated. After dodging many of Juliana's questions about his inspiration for his novel, Abendsen finally confesses that he used the I Ching to guide his writing of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. Before leaving, Juliana infers then that "Truth" wrote the book in order to reveal the "Inner Truth" that Japan and Germany really lost World War II.
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy
Several characters in The Man in the High Castle read the popular novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, by Hawthorne Abendsen, whose title is assumed or supposed to have come from the Bible:70 verse "The grasshopper shall be a burden" (Ecclesiastes 12:5). Thus, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy constitutes a novel within a novel, wherein Abendsen writes of an alternative universe, where the Axis Powers lost World War II (1939–1947). For this reason, the Germans have banned the novel in the occupied US,:91 but it is widely read in the Pacific, and its publication is legal in the neutral countries.
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy postulates that President Roosevelt survives an assassination attempt but forgoes re-election in 1940, honoring George Washington's two-term limit. The next president, Rexford Tugwell, removes the Pacific Fleet from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saving it from Japanese attack, which ensures that the US enters the conflict a well-equipped naval power.:70 The United Kingdom retains most of its military-industrial strength, contributing more to the Allied war effort, leading to Rommel's defeat in North Africa; the British advance through the Caucasus to fight alongside the Soviets to victory in the Battle of Stalingrad; Italy and Hungary renege on their membership in the Axis Powers and betray them; British tanks and the Red Army jointly conquer Berlin; at the end of the war, the Nazi leaders—including Adolf Hitler—are tried for their war crimes, and the Führer's last words are Deutsche, hier steh' ich ("Germans, here I stand"),:131 in imitation of Martin Luther.
After the war, President Tugwell initiates the New Deal on a worldwide scale. With American assistance, China goes through a decade of rebuilding. People in lesser developed places in Africa and Asia are sent television kits, through which they learn how to read and receive instructions on practical skills such as digging wells and purifying water. In turn, these places become markets for American factories. In the British Empire, social and economic progress has also brought relief to the masses in India, Burma, Africa and the Middle East. In Europe, there is peace and harmony not only with itself but with the rest of the world. The Soviet Union, crippled by war losses, is divided up.:165-168
Around ten years after the end of the war, the British Empire, still under the leadership of Winston Churchill, becomes more racist and expansionist, establishing "detention preserves" for disloyal Chinese in South Asia, and suspecting that the US is undermining its rule in South Asia. Meanwhile, the US has ended racial discrimination by the 1950s. Whites and Blacks are able to live and work shoulder by shoulder. These changes provoke racial-cultural tensions between the US and the UK, leading them to a Cold War for global hegemony between their two vaguely liberal, democratic, capitalist societies. Although the end of the novel is never depicted in the text, one character claims the book ends with the British Empire eventually defeating the US, becoming the sole world superpower.:169-172
Dick said he conceived The Man in the High Castle when reading Bring the Jubilee (1953), by Ward Moore, which occurs in an alternative nineteenth-century US wherein the Confederate States of America won the American Civil War. In the acknowledgments to the book, he mentions other influences: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), by William L. Shirer; Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962), by Alan Bullock; The Goebbels Diaries (1948), Louis P. Lochner, translator; Foxes of the Desert (1960), by Paul Carrell; and the 1950 translation of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.
The acknowledgments have three references to traditional Japanese and Tibetan poetic forms; (i) volume one of the Anthology of Japanese Literature (1955), edited by Donald Keene, from which is cited the haiku on page 48; (ii) from Zen and Japanese Culture (1955), by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, from which is cited a waka on page 135; and (iii) the Tibetan Book of the Dead (1960), edited by Walter Evans-Wentz.
Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) is also mentioned in the text,:118 written before the Roosevelt assassination divergence point that separates the world of The Man in the High Castle from ours. In this novella, "Miss Lonelyhearts" is a male newspaper journalist who writes anonymous advice as an agony aunt to forlorn readers during the height of the Great Depression; hence, "Miss Lonelyhearts" tries to find consolation in religion, casual sex, rural vacations, and work, none of which provide him with the sense of authenticity and engagement with the outside world that he needs. West's book is about the elusive quality of interpersonal relationships and quest for personal meaning at a time of political turmoil within the United States.
Philip Dick used the I Ching to make decisions crucial to the plot of The Man in the High Castle just as characters within the novel use the I Ching to guide decisions.
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In The Religion of Science Fiction, Frederick A. Kreuziger explores the theory of history implied by Dick's creation of the two alternative realities:
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.
Avram Davidson praised the novel as a "superior work of fiction", citing Dick's use of the I Ching as "fascinating". Davidson concluded that "It's all here— extrapolation, suspense, action, art, philosophy, plot, [and] character."
An unabridged The Man in the High Castle audiobook, read by George Guidall and running approximately 9.5 hours over seven audio cassettes, was released in 1997. Another unabridged audiobook version was released in 2008 by Blackstone Audio, read by Tom Wyner (credited as Tom Weiner) and running approximately 8.5 hours over seven CDs. A third unabridged audiobook recording was released in 2014 by Brilliance Audio, read by Jeff Cummings with a running time of 9 hours 58 minutes.
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After a number of attempts to adapt the book to the screen, in October 2014 Amazon's film production unit began filming the pilot episode of The Man in the High Castle in Roslyn, Washington, for release through the Amazon Prime Web video streaming service. The pilot episode was released by Amazon Studios on January 15, 2015, and was Amazon's "most watched pilot ever" according to Amazon Studios' vice president, Roy Price. On February 18, 2015, Amazon green-lit the series. The show became available for streaming on November 20, 2015.
The television series diverges from the novel in many respects. Both the Pacific States of America and the Eastern American puppet state appear to be mere provinces of the Empire of Japan and the Greater Nazi Reich without any apparent autonomous (even quisling) government institutions. The Rocky Mountain States become an anarchic Neutral Zone. World War II appears to have ended following the destruction of Washington, D.C. with an atomic bomb, rather than a land invasion as in the book. As for Hitler, while elderly, he is apparently mostly hale in his Season 1 finale appearance, though other characters elsewhere in the season do reference his supposed physical infirmity. In the novel, the Italian Empire is a minor power that controls North Africa and the Middle East; in the series, it is shown through maps that these territories are part of the Nazi Empire, suggesting that either the Italian Empire was annexed after the war or is self-governing within the Reich. The drying of the Mediterranean has never happened, though a slightly similar event is mentioned by a character in Season Two as being planned.
Characters from the book that do appear are in most cases far more fleshed out with deeper and sometimes rather different backstories than their novel originals. For instance, Wegener is a Standartenführer in the SS, rather than a naval captain. Rather than being a member of an organized internal resistance (and despite his relatively low rank) Wegener is a close personal confidante of Hitler and his disillusionment with the regime appears to be largely personal. Juliana and Frank are unmarried, but living together, rather than divorced and separated. Frank has a sister, nephew and niece, although they are killed early in the series, and this propels him into a more active role in relation to the resistance. Juliana also has a sister whose murder by the Kempeitai early in the season instigates her search for the mysterious Man in the High Castle, as well as her having a mother and stepfather who are significant supporting characters. Joe Cinnadella is renamed "Joe Blake" (though he uses his novel name and backstory while undercover in Season 3) and, as he becomes closer to Juliana, appears to have growing doubts about his role as a Nazi agent. Robert Childan starts season 1 as a minor character but later becomes a main protagonist, starting a trade in the Pacific States and in the Neutral Zone, while Ed McCarthy has a rather more prominent and active role, being revealed as homosexual in Season 3.
There are several major additional characters introduced by the television series, and numerous narrative details and plotline elements differ radically from the source novel. For example, the planned Nazi pre-emptive nuclear strike on Japan, "Operation Dandelion", is apparently being prevented only by Hitler's personal refusal to authorize it, leading Heydrich and the faction demanding pre-emptive war to plot the Führer's assassination. In addition, Hawthorne Abendsen does not appear in the first season of the television version and The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a series of newsreel films depicting multiple alternative realities rather than a novel (although this idea may be borrowed from Dick's later novel VALIS which features a mysterious film depicting yet another dystopian alternative history of the United States). As of the Season 1 finale, these films are being tracked down by SS agents like Blake for dispatch to Hitler for an as-yet-unknown purpose.
In season two, a map of the world is shown on John Smith's wall. On this map, Japan controls the entirety of the Pacific Ocean and most of the Asian continent, including China, India and half of Russia. Japan is also shown to control Australia, New Zealand, western Canada, Alaska, and all Pacific states of the United States. The Japanese Empire controls Baja California and South American countries like Peru and Chile. In contrast, Nazi Germany is shown as controlling all of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The German Empire also controls all of the United States and Canada up to the Rockies in the west and South America including Brazil. Germany also controls the western parts of former USSR such as Ukraine. There are also buffer zones between the empires. Neither empire seems to have invaded Mexico and this neutral zone continues up through the Rockies and through Canada. A similar neutral zone is seen dividing Russia in half.
Season two also shows two very different lifestyles in the Japanese-controlled Pacific states and the German-controlled east. The Germans have colonized the eastern states and are assimilating its inhabitants into Nazi beliefs. The Japanese Empire is occupying the Pacific states rather than colonizing them. There is enforced segregation between Japanese and Americans citizens. It is implied that Native Americans were exterminated by the Germans, and that the Japanese exterminated the Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, along with most Alaska natives.
In a 1976 interview, Dick said he planned to write a sequel novel to The Man in the High Castle: "And so there's no real ending on it. I like to regard it as an open ending. It will segue into a sequel sometime." Dick said that he had "started several times to write a sequel", but progressed little, because he was too disturbed by his original research for The Man in the High Castle and could not mentally bear "to go back and read about Nazis again". He suggested that the sequel would be a collaboration with another author:
Somebody would have to come in and help me do a sequel to it. Someone who had the stomach for the stamina to think along those lines, to get into the head; if you're going to start writing about Reinhard Heydrich, for instance, you have to get into his face. Can you imagine getting into Reinhard Heydrich's face?
Two chapters of the proposed sequel were published in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, a collection of his essays and other writings.
Dick's novel Radio Free Albemuth is rumored to have started as a sequel to The Man in the High Castle. Dick described the plot of this early version of Radio Free Albemuth—then titled VALISystem A—writing:
... a divine and loving ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence] ... help[s] Hawthorne Abendsen, the protagonist-author in [The Man in the High Castle], continue on in his difficult life after the Nazi secret police finally got to him ... VALISystem A, located in deep space, sees to it that nothing, absolutely nothing, can prevent Abendsen from finishing his novel.
The novel eventually evolved into a new story unrelated to The Man in the High Castle. Dick ultimately abandoned the Albemuth book, unpublished during his lifetime, though portions were salvaged and used for 1981's VALIS. Radio Free Albemuth was published in 1985, three years after Dick's death.
- Fatherland (novel)
- Hypothetical Axis victory in World War II
- Simulated reality in fiction
- The Iron Dream
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