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

Character Reveal: Leslie


In a character reveal, characters from my books (in print or works-in-progress) answer questions from a standard personality assessment test. Today’s character reveal: Leslie.

You first met Leslie, Ian’s sister, in Fellowship. She also appears in the second in the My Soul to Keep series, If I Should Die. Watch this website for sneak peaks and cover reveals in the third quarter of 2020.

Character hiding her face behind a sign with a large question mark--character reveal: Leslie

Who

Leslie Ann Elizabeth Hobart was sixteen when she appeared in the Fellowship. Younger sister to Ian, Leslie worked as an aide at a local physician’s office for her school sponsored work program. She appears in If I Should Die with vital information that challenges Miranda and a doll that brings back unpleasant memories for Beryl. 

1. Who is your role model?

When I was in school, my role model was Clara Barton. Clara was a self-taught nurse who risked her life to care for soldiers in the battlefield during the Civil War. And she founded the American Red Cross. Now, it would have to be the woman who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary war, I forget her name—Deborah something—Sampson? Yes, I think her name was Deborah Sampson.

2. Who knows you the best?

My brothers, especially Ian. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other when we had to hide from the Second Sphere agents. To survive, we had to work together, depend on each other.

3. What would your friends say about you?

In high school, I didn’t have a lot of friends. But the friends I had would have said I was sweet, helpful, and smart. What about now? When you’re a spy, you don’t have many friends. 

4. What is the question people ask you most often? 

Where are your parents? But I don’t tell them the truth. Most of the time, if I told them the truth I’d put myself or Ian in danger. 

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I’d never, ever, say “your parents have been Taken.” —I’m sorry, I need a moment.

I apologize. I didn’t mean to upset you. Take all the time you need.

6. What is your greatest achievement?

I don’t know that I have a greatest achievement.

Sure you do. It doesn’t have to be world shaking. It could be as simple as getting good grades in school.

Oh, well, then I guess I’d have to say helping my brothers survive both in the mountains and when the Second Sphere caught me and my younger brothers, 

7. What is your greatest failure? 

Getting injured and getting us caught. 

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

What did I learn? Maybe that I should watch where I’m going? And—it’s a cliché, but I learned that you can’t prepare for things too much. Anything can happen. And when the worst thing happens, your survival depends upon how prepared you are.

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

My little brothers. They wouldn’t leave me to save themselves. 

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

I wish I had finished high school. I wish I’d paid more attention in history and politics. And I wish I’d practiced with the rifle more..

11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?

Gert taught me to find the right tool and materials for the job. If I can’t find the right stuff, I will figure out how to make what I have work. 

12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?

If she loves a rag doll, is she still evil. The answer is yes, read why

No one believes me. I know what I heard and I have this doll. But still no one believes what I know is the truth.

13. How do you like to “waste” your time?

I don’t have a lot of time to waste these days, but I used to love to read gothic romances. It’s not something I would enjoy today. I’ve seen too much—real life—to believe in that kind of romance anymore.

14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?

Watching the river or creek. Listening to the burbles and gurgles as the water passes over rocks. 

15. What is your favorite place in town?

You mean my hometown?

Wherever. 

Hmm. That seems like such a long time ago. I don’t know…I don’t have good feeling about Ambrose anymore, but I loved going to the Silver Spoons ice cream parlor in Lynchburg.

16. What do you prefer–a book, a movie or a theater play?

A book.

17. What was the happiest period of your life?

Right before Ma and Pop were Taken. The boys were getting along. Pop was happy because his hardware store business had picked up. Davey had asked me to go the Friday night social. I loved working at Dr. Bakers. He taught me so much about caring for people.

18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?

Christmas morning, when I was seven. I rushed downstairs and saw that Santa had brought me a nurse set and a book about Clara Barton and a beautiful gold locket. That was the most Christmas Santa had ever brought me. I was thrilled.

19. What was your favorite game when you were a child?

I liked puzzles more than games. Any kind of puzzle—crossword, jigsaw, a story puzzle. I enjoy figuring things out.

20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?

My parents were Taken. They were good, kind, loving people. They didn’t deserve to be Taken.

An Invitation

If you missed them, read the three previous character reveals: Irene, Miranda, and Beryl.

Are you an artist or doodler? Have you drawn an image of Leslie or any other character in one of my books? Please, send me a digital copy. With your permission, I’ll post it on the character’s page on this website and share it on social media. 

Did you enjoy Character Reveal: Leslie? Based on Leslie’s answers above, what additional question would you ask? Is there a character from either Fellowship or My Soul to Keep you’d like to see answer these questions in the next character reveal?

Character Reveal: Beryl Clarke

The character reveal is a feature on my website. Characters from my books (in print or works-in-progress) answer questions from a standard personality assessment test. Today’s character reveal: Beryl Lucille Clarke Mitchell. Beryl is Miranda’s aunt and mentor, and a protagonist of the Fellowship Dystopia series.

Image of a woman holding a sign with a question mark on it in front of her face--Character reveal Beryl Clarke

Who

Beryl had just turned fifty-two when she appeared in the first book of the series, My Soul to Keep. Younger sister to the Fellowship’s premier preacher-politician, Counselor Donald Clarke, Beryl learned to hate him when he betrayed her. She and Miranda escape Redemption in My Soul to Keep. Now, fifty-four at the beginning of If I Should Die, she is the First Mate aboard the Lady Angelfish. She’s sworn to protect her niece, Miranda. And she will, even if she never learns to love the water like Miranda.

1. Who is your role model? 

In character Reveal: Beryl we learn 62 year old Annie Oakley with her rifle was a role model for Beryl

As a kid, I read everything I could find about Annie Oakley. I was thirteen years old when my father took my older brother, Donald, and I to a shooting contest in Pinehurst, North Carolina. I saw Annie Oakley shoot 100 clay targets in a row at sixteen yards. Man, I wanted to shoot like her, to be like her. She was one sharp-eyed sixty-two-year-old. But Pop started going to the Fellowship rallies. By the next spring, he’d become a member. Mrs. Oakley was anti-Fellowship, so Pop forbade me from reading anymore about her. I didn’t even know when she died just four years later. 

2. Who knows you the best? 

Long ago, I would have answered, my husband. Now, there’s no one. 

3. What would your friends say about you? 

Friends? I don’t have friends. What about Miranda? She’s my niece. My student. My responsibility. 

4. What is the question people ask you most often?

Did you have to shoot him?

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I never betray a secret. Other than that, I say what’s on my mind.

6. What is your greatest achievement?

That I survived ten years of isolation and torture in the hell-hole they call Redemption and never revealed my secrets.

7. What is your greatest failure?

My daughter, Anna.

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

What did I learn? Never to trust anyone who says “trust me.”

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

You mean some thing I’ve done?I don’t know. Proud is something you feel when you’re a kid and you make straight A’s. 

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

I’d like to forget some things I had to do.   

11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?

My house? I haven’t had a house—a home—in almost fifteen years. Being on the run you don’t stop to fix things, you just keep moving. What about the boat? It’s not a house.

12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?

Rag doll belonging to Azrael

Disbelief. No one can believe the Azrael have somehow survived the destruction of the island. I’m not sure I believe it. But I’m going to find out if they have.

13. How do you like to “waste” your time?

Sitting in the sun, not thinking. 

14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?

Cleaning my guns.

15. What is your favorite place in town?

I don’t go to town unless I must for a mission. Someone would recognize me. They won’t arrest me if they catch me again. They’ll shoot-to-kill on sight.

16. What do you prefer–a book, a movie or a theater play?

It has been a long time since I’ve done any of those. I used to enjoy going to the theater—but that was another lifetime. I can’t imagine doing any of those soon.

17. What was the happiest period of your life?

When we brought my daughter home from the hospital. We were in love with her and each other. But we were willfully ignorant of the terrible things the Fellowship did.

18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?

Watching Annie Oakley. 

19. What was your favorite game when you were a child?

Anything with shooting—preferably with my BB gun, but most often it was my finger or a toy gun (as long as Mother didn’t catch me.)

20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?

Being accused of murdering my daughter. But Weldon murdered her first—he manipulated and warped her mind and sent her to kill her own parents. And she almost did.

An Invitation

If you missed them, read the two previous character reveals: Irene and Miranda.

Are you an artist or doodler? Have you drawn an image of Beryl or any other character in one of my books? Please, send me a digital copy. With your permission, I’ll post it on the character’s page on this website and share it on social media. 

Did you enjoy Character Reveal: Beryl Clarke? Based on Beryl’s answers above, what additional question would you ask? Is there a character from My Soul to Keep or Fellowship you’d like to see answer these questions in the next character reveal?

Character Reveal: Miranda Clarke

The character reveal is a feature on my website. Characters from my books (in print or works-in-progress) answer questions from a standard personality assessment test. Today’s character reveal: Miranda Clarke, the protagonist of the My Soul to Keep series.

Who

Photo of a woman holding a question mark sign in front of her face. Character Reveal: Miranda Clarke.

Miranda Rose Clarke was about to turn twenty-five when she appeared in the first book, My Soul to Keep. Daughter of the Fellowship’s premier preacher-politician, Counselor Donald Clarke and his wife, Kara Louise Lancaster Clarke. She made a break from her parents and the Fellowship in My Soul to Keep. Now, twenty-seven at the beginning of If I Should Die, she is the captain of the Lady Angelfish and the Freedom Waterway. 

1. Who is your role model?

image of Harriet Tubman, whom we learn in character reveal: Miranda Clarke's is Miranda's role model
By Powelson, Benjamin F. 1823 – 1885 – Collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture shared with the Library of Congress, Public Domain

When I was in grade school I found and read a banned book about Harriet Tubman. Brave, resourceful—she escaped slavery then went back and saved other slaves. And when the Civil War broke out, she was a nurse, spy, and scout. And she rescued more slaves. I can only hope to be as successful and brave as she was.

2. Who knows you the best?

My crew—Aunt Beryl and Wanda. You can’t live 24/7 on a smallish yacht and not know each other. 

3. What would your friends say about you?

Oh, my. I hope they say good things, that I’m a good friend, kind, and have done good for the refugees. 

4. What is the question people ask you most often?

There are two questions people ask me all the time. Where are we going? And why are you doing this? Refugees have spent so much time hiding and being afraid, they have a hard time accepting that I just want to help them and that I’m taking them to a safe place. 

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I—I wish I could say I would never say anything hurtful.  I try not to, but I know I have.

6. What is your greatest achievement?

The Freedom Waterway. When I started rescuing refugees, I had no idea that it would become a network of boats and marinas and everyday folk that reach all across America’s waterways. 

7. What is your greatest failure?

Hmm. My first thought is that I failed at my escape plan… But that wasn’t my greatest failure. I—I thought I could be a soldier. I wanted to fight, to be like Beryl. But, I’m not as strong as she is.

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

That I had to find my own path in this conflict, heck, in life. 

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

The Freedom Waterway. It wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t started trying to help people.

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

Oh boy, you ask some hard questions. I wish I could face the truth head-on like Beryl does. I have to sidle up to it, look away, get used to it, before I can really deal with it.

11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?

image of neglected bow of a yacht on dry land.

Remember, Lady Angelfish, my yacht, is my home. She’d been abandoned. I rebuilt her. Every inch of her. And if you’re at sea and wanted by the Fellowship, there’s no one to call. I fix whatever’s broken. Though I have to say that Wanda’s a genius with the engines. If it’s an engine problem, I let Wanda handle it now. 

12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?

I owe Beryl my life many times over. I will help her on her quest. But I’m afraid that means I need to be a soldier for a while. I don’t know if I can do that.

13. How do you like to “waste” your time?

Reading and listening to beautiful instrumental music.

14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?

Breathing. Sometimes listening to soothing music.

15. What is your favorite place in town?

Um, you understand that I can’t visit places “in town,” don’t you?

Then what’s your favorite place? On a calm, clear day—I love sitting on the Fly Bridge at sunrise or sunset. There’s a moment of release—not holding your breath release, but the release of tension and fear and the in the beautiful colors of the sky reflected on the water there’s a breath of a promise. 

image of the sunset on the ocean

16. What do you prefer–a book, a movie or a theater play?

I used to enjoy the theater, but I’ve always preferred a good book. 

17. What was the happiest period of your life?

Happiest? I guess that’s a relative term. Happiest compared to what? I think I must have had some happy times as a child. We’ve had some pleasant times on the boat, times when we’ve laughed our heads off. And I’m happy every time I see Nick. But I don’t think happiest applies to any of those times. Ask me again when this conflict is over.

18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?

My childhood was a lie. I don’t treasure it.

19. What was your favorite game when you were a child?

I didn’t like playing games. My family’s—my parent’s—rules were too—ruthless.

20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?

Everything the Fellowship does is an injustice. But I’d have to say the greatest injustices are the deaths of my friends. They shouldn’t have to give up their lives because evil, immoral men rule the country.

Your Turn

If you missed it, you might want to read Irene’s character reveal

If you are an artist or doodler and have drawn an image of Miranda or any other character in one of my books, send me a digital copy. With your permission, I’ll post it on the character’s page on this website and share it on social media. 

Did you enjoy Character Reveal: Miranda Clarke? Based on Miranda’s answers above, what additional question would you ask? Is there a character from My Soul to Keep you’d like to see answer these questions in the next character reveal?

Character Reveal: Irene

The character reveal is a new feature on my website. Characters from my books (in print or works in progress) will answer questions from a standard personality assessment test.

Who?

Today’s character reveal character is Irene.

Image of a person holding a card with a question mark in front of their face. who will Irene show herself to be in this character reveal.

Lady Irene Susan Earnshaw nee Clarke was twenty-two when she appeared in My Soul to Keep. Now, twenty-six, she plays a major role in If I Should Die.  Daughter of Donald and Kara Clarke. Younger sister to Miranda Clarke.

1. Who is your role model?

Image of Carrie A. Nation with axe and Bible, who Irene says is a person she admires in her character reveal

Carrie A Nation. By Philipp Kester (German photojournalist, 1873-1958) – The New York Times photo archive, via their online store, Public Domain

The good Christian, Carrie Nation. She had the strength to act upon her faith. Had she lived long enough, she would have been a good Fellowship member. 

2. Who knows you the best?

My mother. She’s gone now, so I suppose the person who knows me best now is my husband, Felix. But, you know men; he doesn’t really understand women.

3. What would your friends say about you?

I hope they would say that I am a good mother, a good wife, and a good Fellowship member.

4. What is the question people ask you most often?

People ask many things. They ask what it was like seeing my husband perform his first miracle. They also ask what it’s like living with, being the wife of the Prophet. 

5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?

I would never say something that would lead another person astray. 

6. What is your greatest achievement?

My daughters, Sandra and Annabelle. 

7. What is your greatest failure?

Being a lackluster Fellowship member earlier in my life.

8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?

I learned that God is all-powerful. Miracles can and do happen. Miracles like my daughter, Annabelle.

9. What is the thing you are most proud of?

One thing? I can’t choose one. I’m proud of my husband and my daughters. 

10. What would you like to change about yourself?

If I am totally honest, I wish I knew God’s purpose for me. I know that sounds vain. I should be grateful for the role he’s given me—to be the Prophet’s wife. But I have the sense that there is more that he wants me to do—some greater purpose. I pray each night that I will learn that purpose so I can better serve my husband and the Lord.

11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?

I used to tell my husband. Now, I tell his secretary and she arranges a repairman to come out.

12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?

If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said adjusting to life in America again. It’s so different from life in Buenos Aires. But right now, my loneliness is my biggest obstacle. God forgive me, but I miss having my husband to myself. I miss keeping house and walking the girls to school and visiting the market. 

13. How do you like to “waste” your time?

I don’t waste time. I invest it in my daughters, my husband, and my faith.

14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?

Prayer. 

15. What is your favorite place in town?

Here? In the District? I don’t have one in town. Here in the states? Before, I would have said the beach house. Now, I don’t know—I haven’t found one yet.

16. What do you prefer–a book, a movie or a theater play?

The Bible. Most books, movies, and plays are morally corrupt.

17. What was the happiest period of your life?

I’d have to say in Buenos Aires—before my husband’s first miracle. I would not go against God’s will. And I adore Annabelle. But I was happy being the wife of an unknown man, the mother of their daughter. We were poor but happy.

18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?

The Christmas I was five. Mother and Father were both home. And Santa brought me a baby doll that could drink from a bottle. 

19. What was your favorite game when you were a child?

Image of old fashioned doll at tea table--a favorite game Irene played as related in her character reveal

I loved giving my dolls a tea party. 

20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?

The exile of my family. My Father and Mother did nothing but serve the Fellowship. They didn’t deserve—especially not from their own—I’m sorry, I can’t. I pray every night that the Lord give me the strength to overcome my anger and forgive her but I’m only human.


An Invitation

I invite you to take part in this an all future character reveals. If you are an artist or doodler and have drawn an image of Irene or any other character in one of my books, send me a digital copy. With your permission, I’ll post it on the character’s page on this website and share it on social media. 

Did you enjoy this character reveal? Based on Irene’s answers above, what question would you ask of Irene? Is there a character from My Soul to Keep you’d like to see answer these questions in the next character reveal?