Review of “The Man in The High Castle”: What if the other side won WW2?

Imagine waking up to a view of Times Square – except instead of giant screens advertising Coke or Samsung, there are Nazi swastikas and depictions of Adolf Hitler.

The map of the United States after the Axis powers take over - Creative Commons license
The map of the United States after the Axis powers take over – Creative Commons license

This is the world of “The Man in The High Castle.” Written by Philip K. Dick and published in 1962, the book depicts a world where the Axis powers (Japan, Germany and Italy) had won the Second World War and had taken over most of the world.

It was adapted into a TV show this year and on Nov. 20, Amazon released all 10 episodes. It takes place in a fictional 1960s, and Japan and Germany have split America into three parts: the Japanese Pacific States which is the west coast of the United States, the Neutral Zone which is around the Rocky Mountains and the Greater Nazi Reich which is the east coast of the United States.

The world is very technologically advanced for the 1960s due to the fact that 20 years of unhalted German engineering had made things like rocket air travel a reality. Although Nazi reign brought technological advances to the world, it still brought many atrocities such as the continuation of the holocaust after Nazi Germany takes over Russia, Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. In the United States, Japan on the West Coast are lighter rulers and are more liberal compared to their Nazi counterparts.

set of The Man in The High Castle - Creative Commons license
Set of “The Man in The High Castle” – Creative Commons license

The show revolves around the resistance movement and a film that depicts the Allies winning the war. Important characters include Juliana Crain, a citizen of the Pacific States who gets her hands on one of these films via her sister; Robert Childan, an antique salesman in the Pacific States; Joe Blake, an undercover Nazi agent who is trying to find these films; and Mr. Tagomi, a Japanese trade minister residing in the Pacific States. Each of these stories converge with each other later in the show. I had read the book at the beginning of the semester and really liked it, so I decided to give the show a try.

Spoiler-free Review

First off, if you read the book, do not expect the show to follow it. There are some plot points in the books that are in the show and there are also plot points which are not in the books. Now the first episode (which is free on Amazon) will get you hooked immediately. It leaves the viewers with lots of questions which are later answered in the following episodes. I had shown the first episode to my friends and family, and they all said that they wanted to watch the rest of the series.

Advertisement for The Man in the High Castle - Creative commons license
Advertisement for “The Man in the High Castle” – Creative commons license

Don’t worry if you don’t know much about WWII – all you need is basic knowledge you learned from history class and the rest of it is explained well in the show. 

Spoiler Review

As  mentioned before, the book and show are quite different. The show added multiple sub-plots, such as an attempted assassination on the Crown Prince of Japan. I actually liked this sub-plot as it added more suspense and led to the involvement of Robert Childan, a character from the book which I wouldn’t have expected to show up in the show.

Times Square in the world of The Man in teh High Castle - Amazon Studios
Times Square in the world of The Man in the High Castle – Amazon Studios

As a history fan, I love the references to things like Nazi film, we see this when a few Nazi officers are discussing the films depicting the Allies winning the war and describe them as “better than any of Fraulein Riefenstahl’s films.” Fraulein Riefenstahl is of course Leni Riefenstahl, the director of Nazi propaganda film “The Triumph of the Will.”

I would highly recommend this show to people who like history and to anyone who needs a show to binge watch. All 10 episodes are available on Amazon, so go check them out here: The Man in The High Castle.

Author: Kai Suherwan

Kai Suherwan is a Junior and his second year writing for The Eye. He is seen as the Republican/Conservative writer in The Eye and has been at SAS since 7th grade. He is heavily involved in Republican politics, enjoys discussing current events and hopes to work in the field foreign affairs one day. He can be contacted at: Suherwan45031@sas.edu.sg

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