The Man in the High Castle, a Review

Amazon Prime Video version

The Man in the High Castle is a book written by Phillip K. Dick and a television series (2015-2019) now on Amazon Prime Video. It is an American Dystopian alternate history thriller.  I’ve avoided reading the novel because it reportedly is similar to what I write and I didn’t want to inadvertently copy PKD’s work. After finishing If I Should Die, I took an opportunity to watch the series. I’m told the show is only loosely based on the novel. In this review I tried to keep spoilers at a minimum, but there is at least one. You may wish to skip that clearly marked section. 

Image shows a view of The Statue of Liberty and the New York Skyline. The statue wears a red Nazi sash and instead of a torch her upheld hand is in a German salute. The cover is an Amazon Original, The Man in the HIgh Castle.

The Set Up 

In The Man in the High Castle’s world, Giuseppe Zangara assassinated the United States President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. That sets up a situation where Axis Powers won World War III. Including Washington D.C. being turned into “The District of Contamination” by a Nazi atomic bomb.  

An aging Hitler still runs the Reich which rules Europe west of the Urals and the continent of Africa. It also occupies the portion of the United States that lies to the east of the Rocky Mountains, an area called the Greater Nazi Reich (GNR). Japan rules Asia and the section of the United States west of the Rockies, the Japanese Pacific States. The Rockies are a neutral zone. 

Image of the United States of America shows the eastern portion of the US in Red with the German cross over it. The rockies are gray, indicating the neutral zone. And everything west of the Rockies has a Rising Sun indicating the Japanese Pacific States as described in The Man from the HIgh Castle.

The story takes place in 1962 in locations in the United States and Germany. Former Americans in German and Japanese territories are attempting to adjust to their status as citizens of occupied territories as are the Occupiers who are all very far from their homes and bases of support.

The Plot

A major thread throughout the television program  (SPOILER ALERT) is the existence of reels of film that show an untold variety of outcomes of the war on parallel worlds. In some of the films the U.S. is victorious. In other films the outcomes are much worse than our story’s world. Some characters wish to protect and hide the films. They believe the information could help them free themselves from their occupation. Others characters want to destroy the films. And the Nazis scientists are experimenting with a way to move between the worlds. (END SPOILER ALERT).

There are many plot holes, impossible, and improbable situations. Once I got past the my mindset that the occupation of the U.S. couldn’t have happened in the way the story says, few of the holes and improbabilities bothered me. 

Be aware that there are cultural and historical  inaccuracies that could detract from your enjoyment if they are part of your mindset or culture. 

The Pacing and Sets

Overall, the story pacing held my interest. There is plenty of action and intrigue and danger. Warning: there are explosions and violent deaths, in my opinion they were handled pretty well. But if violence isn’t your thing, this isn’t the show for you.

The settings ranged from stark to opulent. Both the pacing and the sets (locations) worked well for me.

The Characters

The book cover for The Man in the High Castle has a female standing profile in the center with a Japanese man and a man in the uniform of a Reich officer flanking her. Behind them are two flags that represent the two occupied territories of the former United States of America.
The Man in the High Castle is available as an ebook, paperback, and audio book on Amazon and other retailers.

 The characters are diverse. There are multiple factions from underground rebels who seek to restore American freedom to former Americans being assimilated into their occupiers’ cultures. There are opportunists and there are sympathizers. Some have very clear loyalties. Some appear to switch sides. And some play all sides against each other. 

In this televised series, there are several interesting and strong female characters. And you know I liked that. 

What fascinated me the most about this show were the characters. Loyalties were divided, often within families. Betrayals and reversals and reversals of reversals happened. There were characters I grew to love who spiraled destructively and characters I hated that I grew to understand. For me, this is great story telling. 

The Man in the High Castle

The show was dropped by Amazon Prime after four seasons. I imagine production costs were reason enough but according to some sources there were “creative differences” also. 

I made a purposeful decision to not read the book before writing My Soul to Keep. Will I read the book? Absolutely, but I’ll still wait until after I’ve finished the Fellowship Dystopia series. There are enough similarities between the two stories that I don’t want to risk confusing myself. Do I think having watched the show will alter how I approach the third book in the series? I doubt it. In my opinion, there’s a huge difference between the foreign occupation in The Man in the High Castle and a take over from within like the one in the Fellowship Dystopia.

Also there’s a big difference between writing for television and writing a book. Besides with two books written, I’m pretty deeply immersed in the world of the Fellowship. Some of the critiques of the televised series will influence me in that I’ll try to avoid similar inaccuracies.

Do I recommend watching the show? If you love thrilling, alternate history with a science fictional bent…you will be hooked by the televised series of The Man in the High Castle.

Have you watched The Man in the High Castle? What did you think?

Image Credit: Middle image is by RedFoxJinx, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Quotes from Dystopian Fiction to Inspire You

Some people say that dystopian fiction arouses our fears of dire “if this goes on” futures. Many think dystopian fiction is too dark to read, too depressing. Perhaps. And yet, most of us don’t read to depress ourselves. When you look closely, you can also find hope and words to inspire you.

The cover of Ray Bradbury's book Fahrenheit 451 has red and yellow flames covering most of the book. It's a book that will horrify and inspire you.

There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

We Have a Chance

Did you ever feel, as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it a chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you aren’t using – you know, like all the water that goes down the falls instead of through the turbines?

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

We Birth Our Future

Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.

David Mitchell,Cloud Atlas

We Have a Choice

The most important thing you can ever know, is that whatever your purpose is, that’s not your only choice.

Dan Wells, Partials

We Learn What Matters

It’s taken me all this time, all this loss, to realize what really matters is now.

Suzanne Young, The Treatment

We Learn What’s Possible

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

For more reasons on why we read dystopian fiction read this post.

Inspirational or Depressing?

Did you feel the hope? That’s what the best dystopian fiction does. It presents a dire situation, an awful could have been or might be, and shines the light of hope on humanity. Do you agree that dystopian fiction is meant to inspire you? 

Dystopian SF First Lines

Today’s Dystopian SF First Lines post is part of my First Lines Friday series. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Would you read more?

A twig snaps somewhere in the woods. I shoot up from my sleeping bag and reach out in the darkness.

The Burn Our Houses Down Trilogy by Kelsey D. Garmendia

Bursting open, the thin, wooden door slammed against the wall and cracked in half.
“Get down!” a man yelled.

Prep For Doom by E.R. Arroyo, Laura Albins, Amy Bartelloni, Brea Behn, and 16 others

Feet pounded across the young messenger ran as fast as his legs would take him.

Legacy of Light: The Series by by M. Lynn and Michelle Bryan

“What better way to destroy our enemies than to simply allow them to destroy themselves?”

The Good, the Dead, and the Lawless: The Undoing by Angelique Archer

Deep beneath the surface of the earth, two men stood of a dirt walkway.

Virulent: The Release The Virulent Chronicles Book 1 by Shelbi Wescott

This morning in Physics we learned how momentum often led to collisions.

Things That Should Stay Buried by Casey L. Bond

Sixteen year old Iris Lucinda Ankea collapsed to the ground in the middle of her l living room, a hand to her head.

Timekeeper Rising (The Timekeeper Duo Book 1) by Allyssa Painter

Maggie’s mouth was a barely discernible line as she let her eyes look up to the clear blue sky.

5 Years After by Richard Correll

“Are you sure?”
Atopia wasn’t only about perfecting synthetic reality.

The Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather

Please Note

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. These titles are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Now, if you buy one of my books… that will put a little money in my pocket. And a gigantic smile on my face. I love my readers.

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy these Dystopian SF First Lines? Check out previous First Line Friday posts. And you’ll put another enormous smile on my face if you tell me in the comments below— Which ones spoke to you? Did you buy it?

Can You Match the Bestseller to its First Line?

It’s First Lines Friday, but let’s have fun with this one. It’s a mix-and-match game. Get a pencil and paper. Below you’ll find a list of first lines from dystopian ya books on Amazon’s bestseller list. You’ll also find a list of author names and a list of titles. Match the bestseller to its first line and author. No cheating! 

image of a pirate on an island and a pirate ship coming out of the pages of an open book lying on a table. Can you match Match the bestseller to its first line and author?

Ready? Set. Go!

First Lines

If you think you know which book the line is from, scroll down and match the bestseller to the first line. Write your answers down in the order of LINE (single letter)-TITLE (double letter)-AUTHOR (number).

A “When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic.”

B “The blizzard brought with it driving winds, but Farmer-883-PR8 wasn’t giving up.”

C “Raine Caldwell was startled by the slamming of a car door.”

D “Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.”

E “The asteroid that will destroy the earth is named Pandora.”

F “Don’t touch me! I want Nova! Where’s Nova?”

G “When you have something to hide, it feels like everyone is looking at you.”

H “There is one mirror in my house.”

I “My sweating palms slipped against the handles of my bike as I cycled at a pace I hoped would not look suspicious.”

J “I slammed on my overburn and boosted my starship through the middle of a chaotic mess of destructor blasts and explosions.”

K “The monster loomed over Hannah Sheridan, red eyes boring into hers as he reached for her with razor-sharp claws.”

 L “When the revolution comes, border guards won’t get away with harassing Harvester girls.”

M “I’ve been locked up for 264 days.”

N “When Ryder Shaw glanced at the television, he knew he messed up—big time.”

O “My name is Rockland Barkclay.”


AA The Gender Game

BB Rising: After the Thaw

CC Divergent 

DD The Selection

EE The Princess Trials

FF Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes 

GG City of the Dead

HH Starsight

II Shadow Fall

JJ Edge of Darkness

KK Seeking Safety

LL Earthdom

MM Dark Days of the After

NN Shatter Me


Bonus points if you can match the bestseller and first line AND the author.

  1. Audrey Grey
  2. Brandon Sanderson
  3. Veronica Roth
  4. Ryan De Bruyn
  5. Heidi Catherine
  6. Vasily Mahanenko
  7. Kyla Stone
  8. Ryan Schow
  9. Kiera Cass
  10. Cordelia Castel
  11. T.L. Payne
  12. Bella Forest
  13. Suzanne Collins
  14. Tahereh Mafi
  15. Michael Evans

All Together

(Keep reading for the answer key) I get no compensation of any kind for the links to these books.

When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic.

The Selection (The Selection Book Book 1) by Kiera Cass 

“The blizzard brought with it driving winds, but Farmer-883-PR8 wasn’t giving up.”

City of the Dead (The Alchemist Book #1): LitRPG Series by Vasily Mahanenko 

Raine Caldwell was startled by the slamming of a car door.

Seeking Safety: A Post Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller (Gateway to Chaos Book One) by T.L. Payne

Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.

A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games novel) by Suzanne Collins

The asteroid that will destroy the earth is named Pandora.

Shadow Fall by Audrey Grey

Don’t touch me! I want Nova! Where’s Nova?

Rising: After the Thaw (The Thaw Chronicles Book 1) by Heidi Catherine

When you have something to hide, it feels like everyone is looking at you.

Dark Days of the After: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller by Ryan Schow  

There is one mirror in my house.

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy, Book 1) by Veronica Roth

My sweating palms slipped against the handles of my bike as I cycled at a pace I hoped would not look suspicious.

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest 

I slammed on my overburn and boosted my starship through the middle of a chaotic mess of destructor blasts and explosions.

Starsight (Skyward Book 2) by Brandon Sanderson 

The monster loomed over Hannah Sheridan, red eyes boring into hers as he reached for her with razor-sharp claws.

Edge of Darkness: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller (Edge of Collapse Book 3) by Kyla Stone 

When the revolution comes, border guards won’t get away with harassing Harvester girls.

The Princess Trials: A young adult dystopian romance by Cordelia Castel

I’ve been locked up for 264 days.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 

When Ryder Shaw glanced at the television, he knew he messed up—big time.

Mad World: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller (World Gone Mad Book 1) by Michael Evans 

My name is Rockland Barkclay.

Earthdom: A Post-Apocalyptic LitRPG (Ether Collapse Book 3) by Ryan DeBruyn


In the order of LINE (single letter)-TITLE (double letter)-AUTHOR (number).
















The End

I hope you found the game fun and could identify a few of these. I’m pretty sure I would have had a big fat zero percent right.

First lines can make a big difference, even in bestsellers. How many times did you correctly match the bestseller to its first line, title, and author? Did you find any first lines that made you want to buy the book? Keep Reading! Stay healthy! And check in here from time-to-time and let me know how you’re doing. 

Do You Discuss Dystopias In The Making

Sometimes the well goes dry. When this happens to a creative, she must refill the well. This creative turns to informational podcasts (among other things). Recently I discovered a podcast of absolute golden inspiration for lovers of dystopian stories. The Good Code discusses dystopias in the making.

image of lines of green code on a black screen--digital dystopias in the making

Chine Labbe is the host of the Good Code in collaboration with DLI at Cornell Tech. It’s a weekly podcast on ways in which our increasingly digital societies could go terribly wrong. (Yes! Story fodder.) You may subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, GooglePlay, and other sites.

On Net-States

This week’s episode is Alexis Wichowski on Net States Chine and her guest, Alexis, discussed Wichowski’s recently released book The Information Trade: How Big Tech Conquers Countries, Challenges Our Rights, and Transforms Our World.

The premise of the book is that big tech companies like Google and Facebook act like national governments. She implies that this is dystopias in the making. Our world is no longer divided by nation-states (like the United States, Canada, Italy, etc.) and non-states (ISIS, al Qaeda). And she proposes a new term for the era, net-state.

What is a Net State? 

image of the google sign taken at a close angle

A net-state is a digital, big tech company that expands its role to include protective or supportive services to citizens. These companies exist primarily online. They have millions of international followers (like Google and Facebook). And they pursue agendas separate from the law. Out of necessity, some big tech companies created huge departments or companies to deal cyber threats.

Google has an anti-censorship initiative called Project Shield, an online safe-haven for news sites censored by their national governments. They laud this project in some countries but other countries (China, Iran, etc) could see this as illegal and a disruption of their government.

Other actions appear humanitarian. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, they had no power and no internet. FEMA sent fifty representatives with mediocre results. Wichowski stated that as a nation-state any government attempts to respond with fairness.

image of Facebook buttons

Big tech doesn’t care about being fair to all states or all situations. Google and Tesla quickly and efficiently provided Puerto Rico with temporary power and internet access.

Is This a Problem?

Wichowski says it is. She points out that no one votes for the leadership at a big tech company. That means there is very little oversight. And she points out that there is little transparency in these companies. Who has your personal information? What are they doing to protect it? What are they doing with it?

Not everyone thinks this is a situation of dystopias in the making. According to Wired, the world needs net-states. They occupy the same territory as the non-states: the digital sphere. And they understand their norms and tactics far more than a land-war, Cold-War era strategist ever could.

How Do We Fix it?

People need to be more aware of who owns the tech they buy. An example is that Amazon owns the home security system Ring. And Amazon has had data breaches where personal information is at risk. Wichowski says people need to bring pressure on big tech companies to be more transparent and police themselves better.

Wichowski also suggested we establish something like the Geneva Convention for the digital world. She says we should create some basic ethical rules for big tech companies to follow. In this short podcast, she did not go into how this might work. 

If she could change one thing, she says she’d choose for companies to be transparent. She said that somewhere in the world someone knew more about her personal information, browsing history, and shopping habits than she does. She wants to know what all that information is.

Net-Nations in Fiction

While the term net-nations is new, the idea isn’t. Big bad corporations create dystopian societies in many novels.  The tech in 1984 by Aldous Huxley isn’t as advanced, but the idea is similar. 

The Warehouse by Rob Hart, The Circle by David Eggers, Orbital Decay by Allen Steele, and Immortality by Robert Sheckley are a few dystopian novels with tech-ruled societies.

What novels can you think of with this tech-dystopia set up?

What Is the Worst That Could Happen?

image of an atom bomb explosion

Do you play dystopian mind games? I do, endlessly. For more fun dystopian discussion material, read why we love reading dystopias.

Do you agree that big tech or net-states are a bad idea? Do you think a Geneva-like set of rules can stave off severe abuses? Is discussing dystopias in the making inspiration for dystopian authors and readers? Or is it the stuff of nightmares?