The Man in the High Castle, My Literary Review

by admin on December 30, 2015

in Tyler Businesses

Any critical opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of management or staff. For anyone who didn’t know, Amazon.com is now in the business of creating original programing for streaming. And one of their newest creation available for streaming is, in my rarely humble opinion nothing short of brilliant. Over the Christmas holidays this year I was captivated by “The Man in the High Castle.”

The show is loosely based on the novel by the same name, written by author Philip K. Dick. In fact, the book won a Hugo award in 1963. As someone who grew reading science fiction, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was merely aware of his work. Of course I knew and loved the classic film “Blade Runner,” (Based on Dick’s book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”) but I’d never read any of his books in their entirety until seeing ads for Amazon’s new series. When I saw the commercials for the new show I determined to read the original work prior to viewing the show based on it.

As a literature teacher I confess that there are books that we hold up as classics due largely to hubris, but that have no real literary value what’s so ever. They’re merely emblematic of a particular time, place and culture (or subculture). I would put Kerouac’s “On the Road,” in that category, it’s real but basically incomprehensible. Well, the Man in the High Castle, is not quite that bad (in my opinion) but any greatness in it is defined by its place in time and society. The book contains some decent character development, as well as psychological intrigue, but the most fascinating aspects to me are its examination of the human condition in a very dark world. The plot is (in my judgment), almost nonexistent, and the ending so abrupt I went looking for additional pages to tie up even one of the loose ends. In some circles the lack of clarity in writing is a measure of artistic integrity, particularly when applied to the counter culture writers of the nineteen sixties. In most cases I have to disagree. Dick created a fascinating world in this book but failed to fully explore it and its impact sufficiently for me.

My students can attest to the fact that rarely do I ever suggest a movie is better than the book from which it is adapted, but in this case “The Man in the High Castle,” really surpasses the parent work. The series goes a long way to building on the novel and reconstructing a storyline that is recognizable but far more interesting. And while there are terrific new characters, the original ones are spruced up and made a good deal more sympathetic than their counterparts in the novel. The end product is a story that is familiar, more clear but not without the mystery of the book. And while I’m certain that I’ve committed numerous literary heresies throughout this evaluation, readers should not merely accept my opinions but read, watch and judge for themselves.

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