Fascist fiction fails in novel form


Amazon Studios

Fifty-three years after its publication, Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel had been developed for the silver screen as an Amazon original series. For once, the show is better than the book it is based on.

First published in 1962, Philip K. Dick’s award winning novel, “The Man in the High Castle,” depicts an alternate history in which Nazi Germany and Japan won World War II and the United States is no longer a country. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that the storyline was adapted for the silver screen.

Grammar Nazi’s may grind their teeth at Dick’s odd word choice, or lack thereof, but it certainly adds to the story overall.

— Staff Writer Sophia Bender

Overall, the book turned out to be a slow read as it was not nearly as action-packed as many modern novels. That isn’t to say that it isn’t well written, however. Dick’s unique use of the English language highlights the world that he  created. His specific grammar usage is unique to this novel in particular as he does not use language of this sort in his other works. Grammar Nazi’s may grind their teeth at Dick’s odd word choice, or lack thereof, but it certainly adds to the story overall.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the plot line is consistently boring as it seems to be going nowhere. There are several different plot lines following different people in what used to be the United States, but instead of them all weaving nicely together, they continue separately for most of the book. Not only that, each storyline proves boring and seems to have no relevance to the original premise.

The only thing that seems relevant is the novel within the novel “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.” It is one of the only things that ties the storylines together and is also the only thing that connects back to the premise of an alternate history. This novel within the novel is also one of the few developments within this alternate history that is actually explained.

Part of what makes this book aggravating is that several elements of this new world are not developed well. Many of the new technological creations from the Germans are not clarified. In addition, the Japanese have this “magic 8 ball” type book called the “I Ching” that the reader is given no knowledge as to where it comes from and what it does. Its relevance to the story is also unclear until the very end, making every mention of the “I Ching” more frustrating than the last.

Several historical developments are also not described well. For example, why would the power hungry Germans decide to split the United States with the Japanese and not take it all for themselves? Dick does not explain any of this whatsoever, making the book confusing, aggravating, and overall, shallow in meaning.

This lack of description will irritate fans of alternate histories to no end. It’s possible that an older generation would enjoy this book more, but compared to modern day novels on similar topics, “The Man in the High Castle” just can’t compete.

[S]kip Philip K. Dick’s novel and watch the Amazon original instead.

— Staff Writer Sophia Bender

The Amazon original series adaptation of “The Man in the High Castle” is one of few films better than its novel counterpart. It has good reviews and was clearly able to recognize the faults in the novel and excel where the book had failed. With the huge gap between the book’s publication and the release time of the TV series, some discrepancies in how the story was told were to be expected. However, the differences were much larger than just what the time gap may have caused.

The series exceeded my expectations. Unlike the book, I was immediately pulled into a compelling storyline that easily weaves together each perspective. In addition, historical developments and technological developments are well explained. It was nothing like the book, and I couldn’t have been more glad.

Beyond character names and only a couple of plot points, the show greatly differs from its book counterpart. This makes the TV show far more enticing than the book. The characters are more likable and realistic, the overarching plot is clearer and more interesting, and details in the story are explained far better. The best part is that while the book ends on what one might call a cliffhanger, the show leaves room for a longer storyline and is expected to go on for several seasons. This would ensure that a full and complete story is developed beyond what is already written.

To really capture how amazing the Amazon original series is, you really just need to watch it yourself. Everything about it is amazing. The quality of filming is beautiful, the plot is conceived well, and the characters are far more in depth than their book counterparts.

If you really want to experience an amazing alternate history, skip Philip K. Dick’s novel and watch the Amazon original instead.