This is the master piece from Philip K. Dick, above Do Androids Dream of Electric Ship?—better known as Blade Runner for its cinematic version—and Minority Report, also taken to Hollywood.
The Man in the High Castle is a literary masterpiece. I’d place it among the 10 best science fiction novels ever, and also, and contrary to American literary standards, it does not rely on the plot, but on the significance of the final circumstance and the reader’s its interpretation.
Does the substance of the original story follows in the series?
No, the series will never finish in the same way as the novel does. For the series the plot should prevail above the interpretation of actions, while in the book the interpretation prevails above the plot.
First, the raw objective of the novel is to present how life would be in the US if the Axis powers would have won the Second World war. This is done masterfully by the series director and producers. Hence, since the intro song we have a bold idea of the changes that the US went through—even though the map of the Nazi States, the neutral zone, and the Pacific States varies from the novel—.
Second, the main objective of the novel is to produce an artistic form that shows an inner reality, in particular a social inner reality. But the series presented this possibility at the beginning of season two and then forgot about it as all the second season deviates from the novel.
How an inner reality is portrayed in the novel?
Before getting into this matter I need to talk about the I Ching and the The Grasshopper Lies Heavily.
The I Ching book is an oracle, a consultation item for Chinese culture and relevant in Dick’s novel. The I Ching is used by all the Japanese main characters and the Americans living in the Pacific States before making any important choice —its function as an oracle isn’t left aside in the series. Though, I wonder if the I Ching was crucial for Japanese people in the 1940s and 1960s and I seriously doubt that Hirohito, Toyota, Hitachi, and Sony used it before assuming a drastic decision. But in Dick’s novel every character consults it to the point we can see how the oracle works. First, you concentrate and make a relevant question, such as: “Should I try to kill Hitler?” “Should I leave my job and start a handcraft workshop?” “Should I go and seek the man in the high castle?”After the question is posed, you throw six Chinese coins—hexagonal with a hole in the middle—and record the result. This result is annotated as a series of lines that are translated into just two numbers. These numbers indicate two chapters of the I Ching. The first chapter number gives you the answer to your question. The second chapter helps you interpret the answer for taking your decision. Easy, isn’t it?
The Grasshopper Lies Heavily is a novel written by the man in the high castle, Hawthorne Abendsen—in the series he’s not a simple writer, but a movie director, producer, and certainly a screenwriter—. Abendsen wrote The Grasshopper Lies Heavily, an alternate history novel, in it the allies won the war. Moreover, he wrote this by consulting the I Ching. He says that The Grasshopper Lies Heavily “represents an inner truth”.
This is the truth beyond the reality of the characters. What does this mean? Who knows! Maybe that The Man in the High Castle is just a novel, maybe Juliana and all the characters live in an alternative universe. Maybe things work the other way and the place where the allies won is the alternate universe or probably, you live in an alternative story. Maybe in your timeline people still kill others because of the color of their skin color, or kill them because they profess a different religion, maybe the US is the global power and struggles to find an enemy to defeat, maybe people is still not considered equal in your universe, or perhaps your individual rights are not respected by the authority.
Probably that’s the inner truth Dick wanted us to see.
So, read the book and let me know what you think.