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Sunday, 22 November 2015

The World of The Man in the High Castle

On Amazon Prime the adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle has been released. For those who may not know Philip K. Dick is one of the best, if not the best, science-fiction authors of at least the 20th century. His novel The Man in the High Castle is one of my personal favorites of his and focuses on a dark alternate reality following an Axis victory in World War Two. Due to the series being released and this blog focusing heavily on alternate history I thought it would be appropriate to look at the dystopian world that Philip K. Dick has created. 

How the Axis win
The point of divergence occurs on February 15, 1933. In our world an assassination attempt on the soon to be president Franklin Roosevelt by Guiseppe Zangara failed but in Dick's novel the assassination attempt succeeds. John Nance Garner, who in our timeline was Roosevelt's vice-president, becomes president but the USA does not manage to recover its economy through a Roosevelt style New Deal. The Great Depression is not resolved and in 1941 the Democrats lose to Republican John W. Bricker who also fails to resolve the economic crisis while simultaneously keeping the USA out of international affairs. When war breaks out in Europe without financial and arms assistance from the USA Britain and, later the USSR, falls to the Axis. Through excerpts from the novel the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill became desperate in the last few months of the war with him ordering elite troops to garrote German and Italian troops in North Africa and it is implied that the Nazis completely destroyed London due to Churchill's will to resist. It was reported that the Thames 'was on fire'. As the USSR starts to fall Japan bombs Pearl Harbor however in this timeline the majority of the US navy is in the harbor at the time. As a result virtually the entirety of the US navy is destroyed in one day. The Japanese Empire steamrolls southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Australasia and Hawaii and invades the west coast while the Germans invade the east coast. Due to Canada being an independent nation free from Axis control it is assumed that they must have made peace with the Axis before this occurred. Following this the United States put up a fight against the Axis powers, one character mentions how they even almost won the war, but by 1947 the United States surrenders.

The Axis world
Following the war almost all of the world is divided among the Axis powers. Japan holds a sizable empire on mainland China while Germany conquers or puppets most of Europe. Italy meanwhile holds an empire along the Mediterranean but many Italians feel that they are subordinated by the Nazis. The United States is split into three: the Pacific States of America (PSA), a Japanese puppet consisting of the west coast, the United States, a Nazi puppet state consisting of all of the USA east of the Mississippi, and the Rocky mountain States which acts as a buffer state between the two. In the PSA Japanese rule is decentralized with it being ran through the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Although still an empire Japan has started to liberalize as a new generation replaces the pre-war generation although there is still some indifference to the indentured Chinese population. After the war there was considerable Japanese migration to the PSA changing the demographic and in the scenario the country has a culture that is a mix of Japanese, Chinese and American culture. Multiple characters regularly refer to the I Ching to guide their lives and the new generation of Japanese people living in the PSA have a fascination of pre-war American artifacts in the same way how Americans had a fascination with Native American artifacts. At one part in the novel an antiques dealer sells a Micky Mouse watch to a young couple for this reason. Americans in the PSA are however glad that they lost the war seeing the Japanese being benevolent rulers and that an Allied victory would mean a communist victory although this was largely down to propaganda. One character alive before the war mentions how initially he wanted to revolt against Japanese rule but soon came around.

In Europe, Nazi dominated America and Africa however the story is much different. Hitler's plan for lebensraum has succeeded with the Nazis draining the Mediterranean converting it into acres of farmland as well as violently murdering the ethnic Slavs in Russia, Poland and eastern Europe. This alternate history saw a mega-Holocaust in Europe and Nazi occupied America with there being a mass genocide against Jews, Slavs and anyone who Hitler disliked. Russian and Slavic culture has been completely destroyed by 1962 with the Eastern Orthodox church being completely eradicated. Millions of people were murdered by the Nazis with virtually all European Jews being murdered and the few Slavic people who remain being forced into a nomadic lifestyle in Siberian reservations. In America any remaining Jews try to seek refuge in either Japanese occupied America or the neutral buffer zone. The Nazis extermination policy is also widely known by 1962 with people openly acknowledging how the Nazis were rounding up Jews, left-wingers, clerics and eastern Europeans to be deported to death camps. Leading Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart in this scenario is leading the Nazi colonization of Africa as well as the extension of the Holocaust to Africa. It is implied that slavery has been reintroduced in Europe and America thanks to this. 

Thanks to German science the alternate 1962 is far more technologically advanced. Rockets have replaced regular planes for international travel and the Nazis have already colonized the moon. The novel also states that the Nazis have also started to colonize Mars. Canada is implied as being a hotbed for dissidence with Bob Hope making jokes that Goring plans to start a Holocaust against Martians from the safety of Canada. Some time in the fifties Hitler is hospitalized due to his syphilis and Martin Bormann replaces him as Fuhrer. By the time of the novel Bormann is close to death and there is a power struggle between Reinhard Heydrich, Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels to replace him. Tensions between Japan and Germany also arise during this time and a Cold War has set in.

The Grasshopper lies Heavy
Throughout the novel characters read an alternate history novel by Hawthorne Abendsen called The Grasshopper lies Heavy. It is a novel where the Allies won World War Two so the Nazis have banned it but it is popularly read in the neutral countries and the Japan/the PCA. The book's scenario has Roosevelt surviving his assassination attempt and recovering the USA's economy. In 1940 he steps down from the Presidency and is Rexford Tugwell becomes president. He gives aid to the Allies and keeps the navy out of Pearl Harbor so when the Japanese attack most of the navy is spared. Britain quickly becomes strong again, defeats Rommel in North Africa and enters the Caucasus aiding the Soviet Union in winning the Battle of Stalingrad. Italy switches side and attacks Germany while the British and Red Armies invade Berlin. The Nazi elite are captured and tried for war crimes with Hitler giving a speech in his own defense. His last words were a copy of Martin Luther's 'Deutsche, heir steh'ich' (Germans, here I stand). Churchill remains Prime Minister which becomes a position for life and Britain starts exercising considerable control over the world. The US establishes trade with Chiang Kai-shek's China after defeating the communists as Britain starts becoming both expansionist and racist. America bans the Jim Crow laws leading into direct conflict with a racist Britain and a Cold War escalates into a war for global hegemony.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.

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