Nazis (I Hate Those Guys)

It’s raining outside. This was going to be freezing rain, but it’s above freezing now, so it’s just rain. The rain is still falling on ice and packed snow, though, so it’s slicker than snot on the unpaved streets and unshoveled sidewalks in my neighborhood, which is to say all of them.

I’m done, so done, with winter.

Time Square, Nazi-occupied, as seen in Amazon's Man In The High Castle
Time Square, Nazi-occupied, as seen in Amazon’s Man In The High Castle
I spent my three day weekend mostly wandering from room to room in my apartment but at some point I started watching The Man In The High Castle, the Amazon TV series based on the least PKD-like book by PKD. That’s just my opinion, it’s still a brilliant book, it’s just not as balls-to-the-wall PKD as, say, VALIS or Radio Free Albemuth.

The show is a slow build. It bills itself as science fiction but the only real sci-fi on evidence for 90% of the first season is the premise: what if the Axis won World War II and the Japanese and Germans divided up North America between them? We get introduced to a bunch of characters: Juliana Crain and her boyfriend, the hapless artist Frank Frink; Nobusuki Tagomi, the Japanese trade minister with a penchant for throwing the Chinese I Ching; and Joe Blake, a blonde-haired blue-eyed truck driver on a mission.

I don’t think Joe Blake was in the novel. In fact, they’ve changed quite a bit about the novel to expand out the story for long-form television, and they’ve done a decent job of it. The plot wanders a bit in the first season, which is a danger now in the age of binge-watching, something that might not be as noticeable when watching week to week.

The 10% of the series that’s sci-fi is the films: black and white films that show an alternate reality, that is, our reality, where the Allies won the war. The moment in the first episode, where Juliana breaks down while watching the film over and over again, in her shitty little basement apartment in Japanese-occupied San Francisco, is visually mesmerizing and evocative.

Equally compelling is the scene where Joe Blake, driving his truck cross country, has to stop for a flat. Tense because he’s carrying a secret cargo, he gets helped out by a friendly local cop, and the tension fades… right up until the cop, finishing up changing the tire, asks Joe to see his transit papers, and we realize that this is not a free country we’re watching.

Then ashes start to fall, and Joe’s nervous question is answered by the cop very matter-of-factly: it must be Tuesday. On Tuesdays, they cremate “undesirables” at the hospital. Oh, right, the Nazis won.

If you have Amazon Prime, I strongly recommend this show. For some reason lately, Nazis and fighting them are timely, alas.