The Man in the Amazon Castle

The Man in the High Castle was never one of my favorite PKD books, but it’s the one that won the Hugo and had some interesting elements along with its elaborate confusion of cross-reality checks. Now it’s an Amazon series in the making (the pilot is all we get so far) produced by Ridley Scott and put together with former X-Files and Heroes veterans. It plays very much like a contemporary television series – lots of great visuals and music, pretty girls and pretty boys, vicious Nazis and Japanese agents (the story is basically ‘they won World War II and partitioned America between them, but they really hate each other’). It’s America in 1962 and things have settled down really pretty rapidly. The fascists are brutal (hospitals burn cripples and the terminally ill, and the ashes fall all over) and have cowed pretty much every one, Jews and people of color are seriously endangered species, but fortunately for us there are attractive young white people to join the underground and give us our main characters to love and hate and root for and against. In other words, sexy ultra-violence, our favorite kind of show.

Trust no one.

The show is dark. Literally. I could barely see it on my screen. Expect a lot of twists and turns, suspense, surprises, betrayals, torture, sadness, murder, hydrogen bombs, meaningful I Ching glances, and above all “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy”, a novel (or film? in the book it’s a novel. In the show it seems to be a movie) about an alternate reality in which the Allies actually won the war!

Recommended? Yeah, I guess.

Better yet, if you want to watch something, watch “Enlightened”, on HBO, the Laura Dern – Mike White collaboration about a woman who gets her head straightened out after a major meltdown, but then has to go right back to the same old life she left behind. Great writing, great acting, great directing, really good stuff. Much more recommended by yours truly.

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3 thoughts on “The Man in the Amazon Castle

  1. I never got around to reading Man in High Castle. I’ve read a lot of Phillip K. Dick’s short stories, but not a lot of his novels. Another one of those ‘must get around to it’ things when I invent a time-creation device.

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    • As a brooding teen I read everything I could find by PKD, which was sometimes difficult because most of his books were out of print and you had to scour used book stores and hope to get lucky. Only since the success of the movies (especially Blade Runner and Total Recall) have his works come back into print and become such a staple of modern SF. In the mid-seventies he was something of a fringe character. In some ways his books are still ahead of the times – and the movies still leave out several layers of the original books’ harsh satirical bent. He had twenty four hour “news clowns” broadcasting from safe-haven satellites orbiting the Earth. He had TV’s you plug yourself into and set the dial to experience the emotion you wanted to feel. He had nano-advertising bots embedding themselves into your car and blaring psoriasis ads you couldn’t stop and you ended up junking the vehicle. He was really a pretty funny guy which the movie adaptations so far have completely failed to capture. But isn’t that the way? You see the same kind of thing with the standard analyses of Franz Kafka, who was in many ways a comedian too!

      My favorite Dick book is The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, which centers around an intergalactic and quasi-mythical drug dealer who sells a substance (Can-D) that lets miserable space colonists group-hallucinate themselves into the bodies and worlds of Barbie (“Perky Pat”) and Ken doll sets. Brutal and dead-on satire.

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      • I’ve heard that about the movies before, that they capture some of the books’ glory, but fail to really get the humour and satire that Dick was going for. I’ll have to track some down. I have actually read the story Total Recall is based on. Way better, and I liked the movie. The 1990 one. The new one was…less than amazing.

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