The Man in the High Castle

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Alternate History novel by Philip K. Dick, published in 1962. It takes place in America in the early 1960s. This book is set in a world where the assassination of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 led to a complete Axis victory in World War Two, and German and Japanese domination over the entire world. The Man in the High Castle is mostly focused on the lives of ordinary people living in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America (the west coast) and the neutral buffer-zone Rocky Mountain States (the eastern USA being a German puppet government). Two books feature significantly - the I Ching and the book-within-a-book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which posits a world where the Axis Powers lost the war, written by the titular Man in the High Castle.

Now a TV series available on Amazon Prime.

Tropes used in The Man in the High Castle include:
  • Alternate History: Both the book itself and the book-within-a-book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. This eventually verges into...
  • Alternate History Wank: By modern AH standards, the Nazis and Japanese conquering the USA by 1947 is rather unrealistic (even Hitler himself, in his long-term plans, thought conquering the USA would not be possible for the Germans until The Eighties). In fairness, though, Dick did not have access to much of the data about WW 2 that has become common knowledge since then but was still classified in The Sixties when he wrote the novel.
    • Interestingly, this trope is also used by the book-within-a-book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The aftermath of World War 2 in that story has Britain and America splitting the world instead, with the USSR being a nonentity. And the British empire, thanks to the authoritarian leadership of Churchill, would eventually beat the Americans. It could be that Dick realized what he was doing in the main plot and so lampshaded it in the book-within-a-book.
  • America Wins the War: Inverted and Played Straight at the same time. Obviously, America doesn't win the war in this timeline, but the timeline's main point of divergence is Franklin Roosevelt's assassination, which meant that America stayed isolationist and didn't get involved in World War II, implying that the Allies never could have won the war without America's help.
  • Author Appeal: Philip K. Dick likes Japanese culture. A lot. He also appears to know a lot about metalworking, or at least did a lot of research into it.
  • Black and Grey Morality: Life under Japanese occupation is pretty bad. Life under German occupation is hell on earth.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Robert Childan, a white man with inferior social status who is racist towards the Japanese.
    • While at the same time constantly emulating them, ingratiating himself with them, and even, according to the Foreword to some editions of the book, thinking like them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The "authentic" Colt replica.
  • Crapsack World: An extremely hellish and oppressive one. Not just for the actual characters, but also applies for the book-within-a-book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy -- an incredibly racist United Kingdom ends up winning the Cold War and conquering the world. Of course, compared to the one they live in, the characters view the one in the novel as paradise.
    • Similarly, the divide between Nazi-occupied territories and Japanese-occupied territories reflect this divide; while the Japanese are certainly not nice to their subjects, they are on the whole far more humane, rational and sane than the Nazis are.
  • Deal with the Devil: Mr. Tagomi and the other Japanese have to do this when they learn about the impending nuclear destruction of Japan at the hands of the German Army.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: With all the characters, but especially Robert Childan. Deliberate, as they live in a world where the Nazis / Imperial Japanese won World War II and divided up the entire world between them, which would no doubt result in a drastic shifting in the dominant attitudes and cultural mores.
    • This is done particularly cleverly with how The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, an AH-within-AH in which the Allies win WW 2, is different from our own history. It's informed by the sensibilities of the author Abendsen, influenced by the Nazi-dominated world in which he lives, so it assumes that after the defeat of Germany the Cold War will be between the USA and the British Empire, as those subhuman Slavs in the USSR will never amount to anything. And in the end Britain wins the Cold War, because it is more racially pure than the USA and therefore superior.
  • Divided States of America: With the Nazis occupying the east, the Japanese occupying the west and a buffer zone in between.
  • Enemy Mine: The SS, who are opposed to Goebbels becoming chancellor and nuking Japan and stage a coup against him.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The secret German operation to destroy Japan with nuclear weapons is codenamed "Operation Dandelion". This is a reference to the planned Nazi operation in Real Life to invade the British Isles, which was Operation Sealion.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The book is mostly composed of separate simultaneous subplots, with occasional crossover.
  • Gainax Ending
  • Historical Domain Character: Reinhard Heydrich, Josef Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann. None of the Nazi leaders appear in person (apart from a phone conversation with Goebbels), but they're constantly a looming presence.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Imperial Japan, by *quite* a lot.. Although it's not as bad as Nazi Germany and much of Japan's racism against non-Japanese is downplayed well below historical levels, it's still an oppressive dystopia. The main difference is that Japanese characters (Mr Tagomi, the Kasoura couple, General Tedeki) are treated more sympathetically.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Nazi Germany, but not by much.
  • Human Resources: Most of the African population is used for this. There's descriptions of African tribes being turned into "thousands of chemical heaps".
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Mr. Tagomi.
  • Inscrutable Oriental: A few of the Japanese characters, especially Mr. Tagomi, are described this way by white characters.
  • Invaded States of America: What has become of the United States.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Not set in the future, but in an alternate 1960s in which Japan has defeated USA.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Robert Childan. He is intimidated by and subservient to the Japanese ruling class, while privately hating them and being contemptuous of them.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: At least some factions of the Nazi Party are depicted as more reasonable than the leadership, and oppose its genocidal plans such as wiping out the Japanese.
    • And that reasonable faction is Heydrich and the SS, who already are genocidal maniacs in their own right. Faced with the Sadistic Choice of either supporting the SS rise to power or watching his homeland be exterminated, Mr. Tagomi has a bit of a Heroic BSOD moment.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The story does not really have a main protagonist, but rather an Ensemble Cast of sorts.
  • Mind Screw:'s a Philip K. Dick novel. Philip K. Dick liked Mind Screwiness and playing games with the nature of reality. So yeah.
    • The ending where Juliana walks away from Abendsen's house, which seems to take place in "our" universe.
    • The novel suggests that the characters are living in an illusion they can't break out from. However, it also suggests that the "real" world that the characters can't see is the world of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy—which would mean that the world the reader is living in is also an illusion the reader can't break out from...
  • Mutually Fictional: Subverted heavily. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a book set in a fictional world where the Allies won World War Two, but it is yet another Alternate History.
  • Pass Fail: Frank Frink is actually Jewish, with the birth name "Frank Fink". Baynes a.k.a. Rudolf Wegener, a Nazi agent is also Jewish, and has undergone plastic surgery to make himself look more "Aryan". An ever-present theme in the book is, at which point do you become what you're pretending to be?
  • Reality Subtext: Philip K. Dick actually did consult the I Ching while coming up with ideas for the book, much as Hawthorne does when writing his. This may imply he is something of an Author Avatar.
  • Scavenger World: Russia has been reduced to this by the Nazis. There are descriptions of the Slavs being rolled back to the Stone Age, now riding yaks and hunting with bow and arrow.
  • Show Within a Show: The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The Lufthansa rocket ships, which have mostly replaced airliners. Before those rockets, the Germans had already developed jet planes and nuclear bombs, and they're already far into space.
  • Terraform: The Nazis have drained much of the Mediterranean Sea and turned it into arable farmland. There's also mention of them launching space exploration and establishing colonies on Mars and Venus (but bear in mind that in 1962, when the book was written, it was not yet known that those planets were as inhospitable as they are).
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Not many of them appear in the story, but they're always lurking in the background.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Mr. Tagomi uses a (replica) Civil War revolver to kill two American Nazi agents. He has a Heroic BSOD following this.
  • Title Drop: The High Castle was the fortified home of Hawthorne Abendsen, the author of the book within a book The Grasshopper Lies Heavy
  • Unbuilt Trope: Most Nazi victory Alternate History scenarios assume Adolf Hitler would always be the revered founding father of the Third Reich. The Man in the High Castle, on the other hand, deconstructs it—in 1962, aged 73, Hitler is still alive, but in a lunatic asylum, as even the Nazis have realised he's insane and rotten inside. This is part of the crapsackiness of the scenario—the entire modern world is built upon Hitler's dream, and no-one wants to admit that it was a mad nightmare.
  • Up to Eleven: The setting is arguably based on the OTL 1960s turned Up to Eleven - space travel, megaprojects, supersonic passenger liners etc - but given a dark alternate-universe twist.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Joe Cinnadella claims to be an Italian truck driver, but is actually a Swiss agent intending to kill Hawthorne Abendsen.