The Man in the High Castle

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Front cover of a 1962 edition.
Great and terrible
Icon books.svg
On our shelf:
Writer's block
Map used in the TV adaptation

The Man in the High Castle is a 1962 novel written by Philip K. Dick.[1] The novel is an alternate history book set in 1962 where the Axis Powers (i.e. Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy) have won World War II and have defeated the Allied Powers (i.e. the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union). In the book's reality, North America is divided into two puppet states: The US Greater Nazi Reich (comprising the Northeastern, Southern, and Midwest parts of the former United States) based in New York City with its flag being the stars and stripes with a swastika on top and The Japanese Pacific States of America (comprising the West Coast/Pacific third of the former United States) based in San Francisco with its flag being the Imperial Japanese flag with blue and stars in it; additionally the Rocky Mountains part of the former U.S. has become the unimaginatively named Neutral Zone Rocky Mountain States based in Canon City with an unimaginative flag. The Man in the High Castle is one of the best-known and most popular alternate history novels.

Point of divergence[edit]

So you might be wondering: How the hell did we even get to this? Well, the event in which The Man in the High Castle diverges from our timeline's history is in 1933 where Giuseppe ZangaraWikipedia successfully killed Franklin D. Roosevelt instead of accidentally killing the Mayor of Chicago. As a result of FDR's death, the United States never participated in World War II. Subsequently, Nazi Germany conquered Europe (sans Italy, an ally), subjugated Britain, destroyed the Soviet Union, and annexed the Eurasian half of the country continuing its ensuing massacre of undesirables and untermenschen. Italy also conquered Northern Africa. Meanwhile, Japan raped liberated achieved its goal of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (comprising of China, India, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Siberia, and Australia). Then both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan went on to conquer South America together and later invaded the United States. Eventually, the U.S. surrendered and the remaining Allies surrendered to Nazi Germany and Japan in 1947.

The setting and plot[edit]

The Man in the High Castle is set in 1962. San Francisco, Pacific States of America is where most of the novel is set, though it does go to other places such as Denver, Canon City, and Cheyenne within the Rocky Mountain States. The novel also focuses on a potential nuclear conflict between the superpowers of this reality: Nazi Germany and Japan in an alternate version of the Cold War.

The characters[edit]

The Man in the High Castle has a set of characters like any other novel. These people are:


  • Robert Childan: Robert is a shop owner living in San Francisco who sells pre-war American antiques to fascinated Japanese visitors.
  • Julianna Crain: A young woman residing in Canon City as a judo instructor. She is also Frank's ex-wife.
  • Frank Frink (Fink): Frank is a secret Jewish veteran of World War II who works as an antique dealer.
  • Joe Cinnadella: Cinnadella is an Italian truck driver and ex-soldier.
  • Nobusuke Tagomi: Tagomi is a high-ranking trade official of Japan.
  • Baynes/Rudolf Wegener: Wegener is a secret Nazi defector who is incognito as a Swedish industrialist.
  • Hawthorne Abdensen: Abdensen is the author of a famous yet banned novel.

In addition to the fictional characters, there are also a number of historical figures that appear:


  • Martin Bormann: The real-life Nazi Party member who in the novel died during his tenure as the Chancellor of Germany
  • Joseph Goebbels: Hitler's closest confidant, who is sworn in as Chancellor to replace the deceased Bormann
  • Adolf Hitler: Adolf Hitler appears in the novel as a man suffering from syphilis

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy[edit]

One of the important key plot points of The Man in the High Castle is a novel within a novel written by Hawthorne Abdensen called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which is an in-universe alternate history book about an Allied victory in World War II. The Allied victory in question isn't exactly the same as in our world's victory, with some noticeable differences such as Franklin D. Roosevelt serving for only two terms, Robert Tugwell as president, British troops fighting alongside the Soviets in the Battle of Stalingrad, Italy betraying the Axis powers, Berlin conquered by Britain and the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler at a war trial saying the words "Deutsche, hier stehe ich." ("Germans, here I stand.") echoing what Martin Luther allegedly said,[note 1] and the Chinese Civil War ending in a Nationalist (not Communist) victory. The Cold War depicted in the novel is between the British Empire and the United States, since the Soviet Union collapses due to being crippled by war losses. The end of the novel is never explained, but at least one character claims it ends with Britain defeating the U.S. to become the world's sole superpower.

I Ching[edit]

Another book important to the plot of The Man in the High Castle is the real-life I Ching (an influential Chinese text). I Ching is read by various characters within the novel and is a key plot point alongside The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.

The TV adaptation[edit]

Filming of the TV adaptation in 2015

On January 15, 2015, streaming service provider Amazon Video premiered the first season of The Man in the High Castle.[2] Just like the novel, the adaptation focuses on the likes of Frank Frink, Julianna Crain, Robert Childan, Nobusuke Tagomi, and Baynes/Rudolf Wegener as they live in an alternate 1962 America where the Axis Powers won. However, the adaptation has a number of notable differences from the source material; for starters the show includes a ton of characters who weren't even from the novel such as Obergruppenführer John Smith, Takeshi Kido, Nicole Becker etc. The show's depiction of the Nazi/Japanese conquest of America is not a land invasion but instead the Nazis drop the atomic bomb on the American capital of Washington D.C., thereby ending the war. The Rocky Mountain States is the Neutral Zone, Joe Cinnadella is called Joe Blake, Julia has a sister murdered by the Japanese Kempeitai (secret police), The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a series of newsreels rather than a novel within a novel, Julia and Frank are living together but they aren't married, Italy plays next to no role in the show, etc. Needless to say, the show was a hit with critics and audiences enough to justify second, third, and a final fourth season.

There was a bit of controversy when Amazon advertised the show on a New York City subway complete with Nazi swastikas and Pacific States flags. The swastikas, part of the Nazified version of the star-spangled banner, gained controversy (as you would expect dealing with Nazi symbolism). After much pressure from New York governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio, eventually the controversial advertisements were pulled.

See also[edit]


  1. Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, Gott helfe mir, Amen. ("Here I stand. I can do no other.")


  1. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (2012) Mariner Books. ISBN 0547572484.
  2. The Man in the High Castle (2015-) IMDb.