This is one of those truly rare moments where the on-screen adaption surpasses the source material. “Man in the High Castle” is a what-if alternate history where Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany won World War 2 and divided the majority of the world between them, except for Canada. They remained independent for some unknown reason. The United States is split between the coasts. East belongs the Nazis. West belongs to the Japanese. The center of the country is a buffer zone between the two countries.
The book jumps between several characters giving a wide perspective on how the individual lives of the American common folk functions under these new regimes and how this alternate world differs from our current one. We are also given the perspective of a Japanese Trade official and German defector who carries grave news about the coming future after the Chancellor of Germany dies and leaves a power vacuum to be filled.
Unfortunately, the whole concept seems wasted with how much of the narrative focuses on jewel crafting, selling rare antiques, and how pieces can be artificially aged and passed off to the untrained eye. There’s also the focus of a book inside the story called the “I Ching” which guides many of the characters actions. Perhaps it is my unfamiliarity with the “I Ching” but it sounds as if all these characters are basing their actions on random horoscopes.
The most interesting aspect novel, mainly, the threat of the Nazis launching a surprise attack on the Japanese Home Islands is a major revelation which is simply stated and then nothing comes of it. Same with the actual Man in the High Castle and his novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which is an alt-history novel inside this alt-history novel (Man in the High Castle) where the Allies won the war. It is a bestseller and the Nazis are actively trying to assassinate the author because of it. One of the characters meets the assassin, kills him, and then meets with the author to make him aware of the attempt on his life. It simply pans out to nothing since the author doesn’t seem to care about the Nazis trying to kill him. Oh yeah, he wrote The Grasshopper Lies Heavy according to the “I Ching”.
Then the book ends abruptly. There is no resolution. No prologue to tell the reader what happened. Nothing at all. Perhaps the message was lost on me?
I don’t know.
Just not an enjoyable book to read despite the concept.
The television show is where the overall concept truly shines.