High Castle | Book vs TV series ~~ a Bookbug take ~~

My intention was to include this section along with the book review of The Man in the High Castle. However I ended up blabbering about the book so much (even after choosing to leave out half of what I highlighted in the book) that I had to make this a separate one. Because now I want to blabber about both the Amazon Prime Original series and the book it seems.


The TV series in a nutshell is a thriller sci-fi with exciting incidents at every corner. There is a love story. Love triangle perhaps. A couple in love, a man in power faced with a dilemma, a dutiful officer who has to choose between family and duty. It all sounds romantic and poetic which is your normal TV series.



However, the book doesn’t allow you to be a romantic optimist. It creates a world different from ours and then gives you this account of various people and their lives. No one is a hero there. It is grim and closer to reality of course in a different universe.

First among the surprises was that Juliana was not actually the central character of the book. Yes, she is important in both the show and the book. The fundamental essence of her character is the same in both. She is a survivor and seeker in both. Some of which the show itself calls out when Juliana meets Abdensen. He points out how in each of the films, she is always the constant fighting for what is right. In that context, the Juliana from book is alive in one of the tape versions it would seem.

Perhaps this should have been the first surprise now that I think about it. But, to me Juliana’s portrayal stood more striking than anything else. Anyway the second biggest difference is The Grasshopper lies Heavy. It is not some collection of tapes but a book. One simple book! The adaptation took inspiration and made it a film inside a film story which is a clever thing to do. The entire logic as to who made the films and what purpose do they serve needs to be revealed in the show yet. Well, we know some of it but there has to be more to it. From what we know, there are various interpretations of WWII story.

The backstories of each characters and how they got there at the time of the book was somewhat intertwined in the Amazon original series. Mostly, I like to read the book first and then watch it on screen. In this case, somehow the TV series seemed more structured and elaborated than the book. They might have underplayed some characters such as Childan but bringing several layers to otherwise dismissible characters made up for it. The whole Reiss and Frank Frink track was shown in detail for instance. Joe had his own path. These tracks were immensely important in the show but non-existent in the book. Tagomi was the one character who had an arc similar to the book. The way he started and progressed seeking the answers and the way he found it stayed the same in both versions. Which is why he remains my favourite character both in the book and movie. Both Brennan Brown and Cary-Horoyuki Tagawa brought life to their respective counterparts as Childan and Tagomi. Juliana and Frank never had a great love story in the book but I rooted for them in the show for a long time. The TV version justified having that in their plot and the book justified the way it played itself out.
One thing in the show that I wished they had done without was the Resistance. While giving Kido the whole two seasons to play out was significant to show how rigorous the Kenpetai were, the inclusion of resistance just took away the edge of what separated The Man in the High Castle from the rest of its contemporaries. Almost every dystopian story these days has a meaningless resistance trying to fight back and win something even after they have lost the war. I get it that it was essential to keep the track moving and the show is taking it all together to a different level. But I am just wishing if they had found an alternate path to keep the tapes and the rebels’ purpose alive other than merely acting out as resistance with the bombings and shootings. Whatever the show lacked they hit it out of the parks by making the multiverse theory a reality in the alternate historical world. One can only hope that it does not paint a black and white picture where they show the world where Allies won is perfection. We all know it isn’t, don’t we? However there could be a world where the Allies won and the world is perfect. Who are we to question that?

If you go back to my book review, I had mentioned the recurring pessimism in the theme. The show however overcomes it by providing purpose to its characters and weaves the individual characters and their actions in such a brilliant way so as to keep that hope alive. And that is exactly the reason why I am already excited for the third season to come out. The inherent message of the book was grim and thought-provoking. I am looking forward to see if the show will go along with it or provide us with a science fiction fantasy solution where “there is a way out”?

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