The Man in the High Castle (TV adaptation), by Philip K. Dick

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Last week we reviewed Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle, so this week we thought we'd take a gander at the first episode of Amazon Prime's recent TV adaptation of the material. The complete first season of this series is available here.

The Man in the High Castle stars Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Rufus Sewell. It's set in an alternate universe in which the Axis Powers won World War II. The story takes place in 1962 (fifteen years after this world's World War II finally ended), and shifts between several loosely-connected characters—a truck driver, a Jewish factory worker, a Japanese trade minister, and an aikido expert.

When I first read about a TV adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, I couldn't imagine how it would work. Most of the horror in the novel comes from Dick's characters' resigned acceptance of their horrifying everyday world—a world in which most of Africa has been destroyed, there's a brewing power struggle in the Nazi hierarchy (Hitler is dying of syphilis), and people are murdered in the name of racial purity every day. In the TV version, all of these horrors are made explicit, which bizarrely robs them of a lot of their power. It's not that seeing people being tortured and killed isn't creepy, it's that it's even creepier when the story focuses on ordinary people accepting—or even taking advantage of—a system in which murder and torture is an everyday fact of life.

People obviously put a lot of work into The Man in the High Castle. The costumes and sets look great (although Seattle and San Francisco are not the same city, guys), and the acting is solid, if unremarkable. Unfortunately, the producers made a lot of changes from the novel: new characters are created, relationships are altered, and the story's violence is dialed up to gratuitous levels. It makes for reasonably entertaining TV, but it never quite captures the quiet, haunting horror of Dick's novel.
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Posted by: Julianka

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