"The Man in the High Castle" is coming to Amazon this month


The best (Philip K. Dick) novel of all time, The Man in the High Castle, will be coming to your favored viewing device on November 20, 2015 – just in time for Thanksgiving, via Amazon. So while your drunk uncle and your Trump-supporting uncle (who may or may not be the same person) and other assorted relatives are watching the football, you can lean back, plug in your headphones, and see the greatest alternative timeline story ever told on your fully charged phone. That is, if you have access to Amazon Prime. So if you haven’t done the free trial membership yet, it’s about time to pull that trigger.


But here’s the bestest news of all – even if you’re a shlub who blew your Prime trial on Bosch and you don’t have a significant other or family member willing to trust you with his or her Amazon password, you can watch the pilot episode FREE now.

Here’s the trailer:

What is The Man in the High Castle and why would you want to watch it? It’s the television adaptation of a novel by Philip K. Dick – the man whose books have been the basis for Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, The Adjustment Bureau and more. It’s set in a world where FDR is assassinated in 1933, the US never gets over the depression, Kirk never lets Edith Keeler die, and we lose World War II. The post-war US is divided by Japan and Germany. Japan controls the West Coast; the Germans have the East Coast and most of the rest. The Rockies form a buffer zone. The novel takes place in 1962. There’s a novel within the novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which offers an alternate history – not ours – but closer to it. Germany and Japan are defeated, but Russia barely makes it through. The US and Great Britain emerge as the world’s two competing super powers.


In 2010, the BBC announced a planned four-part adaptation, with Ridley Scott as Executive Producer. Five years later with Scott still at the helm but no BBC involvement, it’s here. Why haven’t there been previous feature films? Possibly because the tone of the novel is so dark and humorless, and the ending doesn’t feel like one. Dick planned on writing a sequel. A couple of chapters exist, but he abandoned the project finding it too unbearable to read more about Nazis and try to get into their heads.

thanks to your fuhrer

Amazon refers to “season one” availability, so it’s unclear whether or not they’ll be following the book’s storyline, or going past it to create a broader series about life under occupation, or giving us the sequel Dick never finished. The pilot follows the book’s plot with some variations, but not enough to cause this fan to go ballistic.

whiter great white way

The biggest difference so far is that The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a film, not a novel. It looks like an authentic World War II era newsreel. Some people believe it is, and that belief causes the Nazis to make even watching it an act of treason punishable by death. Others believe it is merely anti-fascist fiction. In both the novel and the series, the actual man in the high castle is the creator of the work. Why a newsreel rather than a novel? Maybe it’s simply a matter of one being more visual than another. We can experience a film within a film and watch it with the characters, while a book within a film is tougher.

The pilot, like the book, is uncompromising in its bleakness. Imagine if you will, living in a world that totally sucks and Jon Stewart was never born because his grandparents were wiped out. Amazon seems to be attempting irony in one of its promos – which doesn’t jibe with the tone of the pilot. They also use the song Edelweiss from The Sound of Music over the opening credit sequence, but this is not satire, so don’t expect The Confederate States of America. However, if you are a sucker for parallel/alternative realities, this is the mother of them all.



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Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

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