Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is a Philip K. Dick novel turned into a streaming series produced by Ridley Scott (who also directed the Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” filmed as Blade Runner.) The novel won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award as best SF novel in the mid 60s. The book postulates an alternate history in which Germany won WWII, and the U.S. is divided between Germany and Japan, with a neutral zone between them. Only in science fiction can you explore how such a thing might play out. The series is different than the book in that Hitler is alive until the end. Hitler is alive in the book, but has been incapacitated by syphilis, with Bormann assuming power. Using advancing technology, they develop rockets to travel to the moon and beyond, colonize Africa, (killing most of the inhabitants,) and plan to H-Bomb Japan. The Cold War is between Germany/Japan. And it all began when Roosevelt was assassinated in 1933, which led to weaker Presidents and an isolationist policy at a pivotal time when a World War was imminent. Ironically, there is a novel within the novel postulating that the U.S. did win the war, and this provides the end game (in which it is also hinted that the UK defeats the U.S. to become a superpower!) We like to imagine that the way things are represent the way they were “meant to be,” but Dick did not believe in fate or in saying “things happen for a reason.” There are many reasons, and we create our own fate in response to them. (This also eliminates wishful thinking or a negation of responsibility for what one does…or doesn’t do.) The novel is excellent in its examination of racism, class, jingoism, and human nature itself. Narrator Jeff Cummings is a former stage actor, and an award winning voiceover talent. He delivers the characters angst and  interior dilemmas with skill and engagement, true to nuance of emotion, like an “audio movie.” RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH is something of a sequel to the novel, as Dick thrusts himself into his own dilemma of surviving a fascist alternate-history U.S. in his final visionary novel. It is read by the ever listenable deep voice talent of Tom Weiner, a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 

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