Year Zero in The Man in the High Castle

To the student of history, the premise of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle (2015-19, our review here)based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name, isn’t easy to accept. The United States, in the real world an industrial titan and the “Arsenal of Democracy”, is defeated in World War II and replaced by two Axis puppet states. The show justifies its alternate history with a favorite dieselpunk trope: Nazi superscience. Specifically, the “Heisenberg device” atomic bomb, which is used to decapitate the American leadership in Washington DC in December 1945.

The “history” of Nazi-ruled America is more credible. Institutions like the FBI neatly fold into the New Order. Former soldiers, like John Smith (Rufus Sewell), join the SS. Jews and other undesirables, including the mentally and physically disabled, are exterminated with little resistance.

One political aspect of the show which was very much on-point came late in Season 3, when (spoilers ahead!) the recently crowned Reichsf├╝hrer, Heinrich Himmler, observes the celebrations of a Jahr Null, or Year Zero, in an alternate 1963.

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The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle, Season 1

We’re written about Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle here at Never Was, but we never reviewed the series. Now that it’s in its fourth and final season, it’s worth taking a look back on this dieselpunk drama.

Season 1 follows Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, on which the TV show is based, pretty closely. The Axis have won have the war and North America is divided in two. The Germans control the Western Hemisphere, including Africa and the bulk of the former United States. The Japanese hold the East, including Alaska and the former states of Washington, Oregon and California. An unruly Neutral Zone in the Rocky Mountains separates the two empires.

The main character is Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a resident of the Japanese Pacific States who is gradually immersed in an American Resistance movement led by Hawthorne Abendsen (Stephen Root), the eponymous “man in the high castle”. In the book, he is the author of an alternate-history novel in which the Allies won the Second World War. In the series, he produces films.

Their nemeses are American SS chief John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and his counterpart in the Pacific States, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel de la Fuente). Both want to get their hands on the films and the man in the high castle himself.

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What if the Axis Won World War II?

We previously imagined a world in which the Axis powers signed a peace treaty with America and World War II is still being fought as a prolonged Cold War. But what if Germany and Japan had pressed ahead and invaded the United States?

This next installment is heavily inspired by Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) and the Amazon drama series that is based on it (2015-present, our review here). Other inspirations are William Overgard’s The Divide (1980), Harry Turtledove’s In the Presence of Mine Enemies (2003) and Guy Saville’s The Afrika Reich (2011).

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The World of The Man in the High Castle

Last year, we featured a map of North America from the title credits of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, which shows the United States divided into German and Japanese zones.

The second season of the series, which is also based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 alternate-history novel and started streaming in December, gives us a fuller picture of the world.

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What If Germany and Japan Had Conquered the United States?

Earlier this month, we looked at some hypothetical Axis invasion plans of the United States. In reality, neither Germany nor Japan ever had a concrete plan to attack North America. But what if they did?

Philip K. Dick’s 1963 novel The Man in the High Castle gives us a world in which the two Axis powers not only mounted an invasion of America but succeeded in conquering it.

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Atlantropa: The German Plan to Dam the Mediterranean

Discerning viewers of Amazon’s alternate-history drama The Man in the High Castle (our review here) may have taken notice when one of the characters made a passing reference to a German plan to drain the Mediterranean.

It sounds like just the sort of thing a megalomanic Third Reich would do, but they actually didn’t. The Nazis weren’t interested in the plan — but it was real.

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