Notice...

The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.


***SPOILER ALERT***
Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snow & Sanity By Bruce Scindler - Lots Of Snow, But Not Much Sanity - An Insanely Good Read!

Snow & Sanity by Bruce I. Schindler (2015)

Snow & Sanity is the third in the Dust & Cannibals low-tech Science fiction series of stories involving the people in and around Harlan County, Nebraska following a series of events that have changed the political, economic, and physical landscape of our reality into something that is often horrifying and always a little disturbing while being thought provoking at the same time.

This third installment of the series takes the reader into the workings of one of the locations in Harlan (the residents have dropped the County off of the name) called the Wagon Ranch. The function of the wagon ranch is primarily to train horses and riders to help with the many jobs that need to be taken care of including transportation, defense, and delivery of messages and supplies in a timely manner. Operations at the ranch have been disrupted by snow storms that come through every few days dropping massive amounts of precipitation. That covers the snow aspect of the title. As far as the sanity part of the title, where Wagon Ranch is concerned, there seems to be very little of that to go around.

A lot of activity is happening around Harlan, and not all of it is good. At the Wagon Ranch, the appointed manager and his assistant seem to be taking pleasure in torturing Rick, a computer nerd, by making him do jobs around the ranch that have little to do with actually getting anything accomplished. At the same time, a young woman named Gwendolyn is being held in apparent slavery serving four households and being forced to do all of the cleaning and cooking. When Lyle and Mark discover this, they decide to make some changes in an attempt to improve conditions at the Wagon Ranch. While Kevin seemed to be the right choice for manager, it turns out that his personality has changed and so has the personality of his assistant, Duane.

Gwendolyn and Rick are married almost immediately after they meet and are appointed to run the ranch and it is soon discovered that the reason for Kevin and Duane’s behavior is a substance that is hidden in the walls of the buildings on Wagon Ranch. What ensues next is a struggle for control of the ranch, as well as many of the people of Harlan, and perhaps a struggle for the County itself. All the while, there are people who are caught in the middle, some are well equipped to handle the situation, while others that the people of the county count on for guidance and wisdom appear to falter because of moral standards that seem to be deteriorating in this world that is rapidly changing as resources dwindle. Then there are the weather changes that are affecting one of the most important aspects of being civilized; communication.

Once again, Bruce has delved into the area that I would call Social Science Fiction. This series is not so much how a post-apocalyptic society might deal with the lack of technology, but how they might deal with one another in a society that has to deal with the changes resulting from a broken down government, and threats from every angle. Everyone in such a society has to be a productive member by contributing to the welfare of the whole for the good of all, but as we see in the real world, there are those that will insist on taking advantage of a situation to advance their personal agenda, and Bruce demonstrates how this would tend to bring everyone down if situations like this exist. In other words, the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the one. It is obvious that the author has given this aspect a great deal of thought.

At the same time, there has to be someone in charge to help determine what is best for the society saw a whole, and being human, leaders do tend to make mistakes. In the story, Lyle is a wise leader with years of experience under his belt, but even he can be flawed. Lyle has a deep respect for life and does not feel that anyone is expendable, now matter how bad someone might be, he wants to help everyone become a part of the community. He feels that with martial law in effect, he must be careful not to make decisions based on knee-jerk reactions, but sometimes there are situations that cannot be resolved thoughtfully. This story finds Lyle making a decision that did cost lives, and could have cost a whole lot more and plunged the people of Harlan into complete chaos. Fortunately, there are others who see the flaws in Lyle’s decision and take measures to lessen the impact.

One impact that was avoided was the possibility of losing the two people in the county that were best equipped to help restore the communication abilities in the county, that would be the two highest qualified people in the area that understand technology, Rick and Gwendolyn. In trying to save Kevin and Duane, Lyle’s decision not to eliminate them as a threat to the group, caused the couple to re-examine whether they really wanted to be a part of the community or to strike out on their own. I found that as I read, I was also disappointed in Lyle as he put many lives in harm’s way that could have been avoided. Unfortunately, not everyone can be redeemed.

One of the best parts about reading Snow & Sanity is in seeing the growth of the author in his writing. Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that the first two books were bad, but this one was my favorite of the three. The descriptions of the scenery and how it was effected by the weather was quite vivid, as well as the descriptions of the places I which the characters were taking shelter from the weather. The characters also seemed more comfortable in their settings. As always, the stressful elements such as rape scenes, beatings, as well as other such were done tastefully and we're all important parts of the story. I especially appreciate that the violence in the book is not gratuitous, but it is realistic and in line with what a reader might expect to happen within the world that Bruce has created.

That is also not to say that there are not surprises within the pages, and all is not dark and foreboding. There are also some good times and some humor. While the circumstances that created this world from the mind of Mr. Schindler are devastating, the center of the story are the characters he has created, sometimes good, sometimes evil, but always interesting.

I have really enjoyed the books in this series and give my highest recommendations to anyone who likes low-tech science fiction.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned - Part 2 - I enjoyed It, However...

Star Trek: New Frontier: The Returned - Part 2

The Returned-Part 2 picks up at nearly the moment that Part 1 ends. There are three main story plots involved; first is the story of Mac Calhoun in command of the USS Excalibur entering a pocket universe in pursuit of the D’myurj, a self righteous race who believes that it is their mission to destroy all life. Unfortunately for them, they chose to destroy Xenex, Calhoun’s home world and he is determined to exact revenge on the D’myruj, and if anyone can single-handedly do that, it is Calhoun. Upon entering the pocket universe, the crew of the Excalibur encounter a derelict D’myruj ship and learn that all hands on board, save one, have been killed. It is a gruesome scene. It isn’t long before another ship arrives on the scene belonging to a race of people called the Dayan. Under the command of Nyos, who explains that they are also out for the destruction of the D’myurj, proposes an alliance. The D’myurj home world is apparently protected by a series of defense satellites that the Dayan are unable to penetrate. Since the Excalibur is equipped with a cloaking device, it is thought that Calhoun might be able to take out the satellites and allow Nyos to do the rest. However, Calhoun’s mission is not only to visit revenge on the D’myurj, but also to rescue a small group of Starfleet personnel that have been captured. The uneasy alliance teeters on the edge and all is not as it appears to be in this plot that has a few twists and turns.

The second story line is the plight of Robin Lefler and her son Cwansi who have been taken to New Thallon by Mark McHenry, a man with some special powers, off of which was to teleport Lefler and Cwansi off the Excalibur and onto New Thallon to keep them safe. The current ruler of New Thallon, Shintar Han is determined to keep power and makes attempts to kill Lefler and Cwansi because Cwansi’s father was Ci Cwan, the late ruler of the Thallonian people thus making Cwansi the rightful ruler. McHenry intervenes and does a great job of protecting Lefler and the baby. Meanwhile, it is discovered that McHenry has powers to heal certain ailments and he is kept quite busy as hundreds appeal to him for help. Shintar Han appeals to the Thallonian god known as the Awesome to intervene and secure his rule. The Awesome has actually been intervening in the Thallonian political scene on numerous occasions, some of which are chronicled in the third story line.

In that story line, it is explained how the Cwan family has been aided in taking and holding power throughout the history of Thallon, a planet that was destroyed in an earlier book. The Awesome goes by many names and the big reveal of who he actually is is a surprise, because he is someone that we who are Trek fans, know all too well as Q.

I did enjoy this story continuation but found the main plot somewhat predictable and would have found it quite slow if it had been any longer than it was at 161 pages. I knew that the crew of the USS Excalibur would encounter another race and that they would ally with them, and that the new race they encountered would have some hidden agenda that would set the two factions at odds. I am also thinking that the third and final part of the series will be just as predictable and that, as always, Calhoun and the crew of the Excalibur will be triumphant at the end. Along with that, I also felt that it was predictable that Lefler, who seems to be quite promiscuous at times, would wind up in bed with McHenry, however I am interested to see where this healing ability that he has is going to go.  I am thinking that it will most likely result in some sort of showdown between him and Q.

For me, the best parts of this segment of the story is the history of the Thallonian people and the secession on power of Ci Cwan’s family. While well written for a subplot, I would liked to know more about the rulers, one of which seemed to be benevolent while the next was apparently despotic.

Actually, thought the entire book was a little abrupt and left me wanting more, which I suppose would be the point of a middle book in a three part series.

There are a few other points that I should like to point out such as I am having a little trouble seeing this as a Star Trek story. The behavior of some of the characters is a little off the mark for my personal taste. For instance, Captain Calhoun seems hell bent on committing genocide in an almost obsessive act of revenge, and his crew is more than willing to follow him no matter what he does. In the story, he gets a half-hearted talk from his first officer about the morals of the mission that has been decided on, as far as he is concerned, unilaterally and without the backing of Starfleet Command. Admiral Jellico and Calhoun’s own wife, also an admiral, even backhandedly are in supporting his actions while leaving the door open for plausible deniability. Calhoun, who has always been a hero in the past by using his wits and intelligence to resolve situations, has now become a villain. What’s more, even if he is acting out of a sense of revenge for the genocide against his people, then should it not be determined that he is emotionally compromised and thus temporarily relieved of duty?

I also reviewed The Returned-Part 1 and raved about it. I found it a good solid exposition, however Part 2 also read a little like continued exhibition. Despite the few plot holes I pointed out and the feeling of abruptness I felt as I read, this is a good story and I looked forward to reading Part 3 very soon.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Rant About SciFi Fandom - Can't We All Just Get Along?

If you read the blog at all, you have probably surmised that I am a SciFi fan. You have also probably figured out by now that I am a Trekkie/Trekker. What you may not know is that I am also quite angry and disappointed with with much of what I am seeing in “Fandom” over the past several years in general, and this past few weeks in particular. Well, I can remain silent no more and I feel the need to put in writing what I am seeing and why I am so disgusted with what is called “Fandom.”


WHAT HAPPENED
Several days ago when I looked at my Facebook timeline, there is a trailer for the upcoming Star Trek: Beyond film slated to be released in July of next year. The trailer was in German and was said to be “leaked,” snagged by a huge number of people and spread over the internet.  Immediately, there were reactions to the trailer from both ends of the spectrum of opinion. Later, it was said that since the trailer had been leaked, Paramount decided to put out the English version of the preview which appears below…


So, as I read my timeline, there are reactions in the form of opinions that varied from, and I am paraphrasing, “I cannot wait to see the movie” to “oh great, another piece of crap from the JJ ‘verse full of explosions, this is going to suck!” Well, you know what the old saying about opinions is, everybody has one.  Well, I am all for fans having an opinion, even when it comes to seeing a mere 90 seconds of footage from a film that will most likely be two hours long. Some of my closest and most respected Facebook friends weighed in in much the same way. They centered their remarks on what they think and had nothing to say about what others think. I’m cool with that. But then there are the trolls and fanboys that have to get their little barbs in by getting on a more personal level. They start out with “how can you call yourself a Star Trek fan when these JJ films have nothing to do with the “Roddenberry Vision?”  “True fans hate the JJ films!” Of course then follows the F#%&-yous and other such disparagements. And for me, THERE is the problem.

MY PROBLEM
When did people in our society get so polarized? Where does this attitude, that seems to permeate every single issue, no matter how small, that if you don’t agree with someone, you are stupid? I have my ideas when this started, and how, but will not go into that here. All I will say is that it is a disturbing trend that began to surface around sixteen years ago as I think about it. I can remember a day when opposing sides of an issue sat down and had a dialog and either found a middle ground or agreed to disagree. Those days are long gone and may never return. So I suspect I will see this “I’m right and you are stupid, so F-you” trope to continue well into the future. Accompanying that is also a complete loss of sense of humor and folks getting “butthurt” over the slightest difference of opinion. It’s too bad that there is no such thing as a consensus anymore, because I thought that us SciFi fans were at the top of the open minded food chain.

MY VISION OF SCIFI FANDOM
As a Scifi fan, I try to remain open minded to ideas, after all, that is what SciFi is; ideas that others have about the past, present, or future and then write about those ideas, or make television shows and movies from them. We, the fans, consume these products and ponder their validity, or how far fetched they are and make value judgments based on a hopefully informed basis. Some of those ideas (such as many of those presented in Star Trek) are so far fetched that they may never be possible, but many other of those ideas that seemed too far out there to be nothing more than fiction often become reality given time.

Being open minded also means that we are able to have a discussion, especially on subjects we disagree on, without resorting to off-handed remarks about another person’s intelligence, or resorting to the F-yous. I am not saying that everyone has to agree, but disagreements should not end with disrespect and discouragement for the other party. Are we just not capable of that any more? After all, perhaps, if one just listens, whether a discussion ends in disagreement or not, both sides involved may just learn something and be opened to entirely new possibilities that can not only provide amusement and entertainment, but can also foster new ways of thinking. This has happened to me on so many occasions that I could most likely fill several pages of text.

DON’T WE ALREADY GET ENOUGH RIDICULE?
I can only speak for myself, but I get quite enough eye-rolling and snark from people who are not SciFi fans, I certainly don’t need it from within fandom. On a daily basis, I am surrounded with people that talk football, golf, politics, and so on. I politely listen to what is said and even participate in the conversations if I find that I can contribute intelligently. Let me say, that these are people that I do care about and I do value their friendship, but all too often, when I attempt to share my interests with others, I am often shut off, ignored, or down right ridiculed. I generally laugh it off, on the outside, but sometimes I am hurt by what is said. I was even recently severely slammed by an eleven year old for liking Star Wars!

We call ourselves nerds and geeks now days. I remember a time when those were definitely not positive terms. Thanks to the repeated use of those terms to refer to us, we have embraced them and actually changed the meanings. now everybody wants to be a nerd or a geek of some kind. However, we seem to have lost the art of conversation and the exchange of ideas. Now, we form opinions, informed or not, and we brutally attack one another in the name of being right. We fall into traps and get into arguments among ourselves as SciFi fans when we should band together and make our wants known.

IF YOU LIKE IT, SUPPORT IT OTHERWISE DON’T
To me, it is just this simple, if you patronize what is coming out of Hollywood, you will get more of the same. It is a fact that dollars speak louder than words where the film industry is concerned. As a former theater owner, I have seen this in action, and as a patron of film, I see it happening now. There is a lot of complaint from those that feel that there are too many prequels, sequels, remakes, and reboots on the big screen lately. It is an accurate observation; how many times are we going to see the Batman origin story, or the Spider Man origin story, or the remake of a film that was fine the first time it was released? The answer is as many times as the fans are willing to plunk down their hard-earned money to pack theaters to see them. If you stop attending perhaps Hollywood will get the message that we want more original material. The unfortunate thing is that recently, many of the new stories coming to theaters are poorly attended or are slammed so badly by the critics that the message is we want more of the same! At the same time, if you don’t like the movies of the JJ ‘verse, don’t support them! Don’t go to the theater, or buy the BluRay. It’s okay to not like something, just the same as it is to like something.

About a month ago, CBS announced that they are planning to produce a new Star Trek series. Once again, fandom not knowing anything other than there will be a new series, got the snowball rolling on speculation of how bad it would be! CBS also mentioned that they would be releasing the pilot episode on their regular network, but that the rest of the series will be on their All Access service for $6 a month. Well, that started a new round of whining that those that refuse to pay are not real Trek fans and that those who are willing to pay are just so desperate for new Trek that they are willing to go to any length to have it, even by feeding the monster that is, in my opinion, just gouging the fans because they believe that we will flock to them in droves to see our beloved series back on the small screen where it really belongs. One comment I read said that this is the future of television. Just for the record, I will not be one of those that will be handing over $6/month for Trek on television. And for those of you that think I am not a true fan I say this, it is my business how I spend my money and I am already paying for television service. You are, of course, free to do what you want. By the same token, CBS is fully within their rights to release their content in any way they wish, but I don’t have to buy it.

MY TAKE ON THE NEW TREK TRAILER
As soon as the English language version was posted, I watched it. It is very short and shows nothing about the story behind the film, rather just a few scenes that go by at breakneck speed. It is interesting, but there is little of substance there, it is what it is, just a hint of what is to come. As an aside note, it is a lot like the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer that also caused quite a stir among fandom; a few scenes with little substance. At any rate, it seems that the Trek trailer indicates more of an action film, but with so little to go on, I have to reserve judgement on the film itself, much unlike many other fans I have seen remarks from.

Not long after the trailer was released, there were some comments from Simon Pegg, one of the actors and writers of Star Trek: Beyond that explains that what was in the trailer is only the tip of the iceberg:


IN CONCLUSION
In my experience, SciFi fans are among the more intelligent people because we contemplate the future and anticipate what might be by looking at what was. Often we are an optimistic lot who are passionate about our genre and we form opinions that are often in opposition. However, recently we are becoming more polarized and close-minded, unwilling to listen to others. Many discussions deteriorate into personal insults and arguments that only serve to divide fandom and make us look like the stereotypical spoiled brats that live in our mother’s basements.

Personally, I try to live my on-line life by a personal code of conduct:
  • Have an opinion, but understand that others do too and they may be in opposition to my own. Accept this and move on.
  • Have discussions, but don’t get personal. Disagree but don’t put down. Remain open to new ideas that might provide learning.
  • If something is not good, say so. If something is good, say so. If you are ignorant about something, shut up and listen, you just might learn something.
  • Avoid trolls and haters; don’t engage them, you’ll never win.
  • If you are wrong, admit it.
  • Avoid cute cryptic statements, be clear and concise.
  • If you find yourself in disagreement, begin your argument with “perhaps,” it leaves the door open for new ideas.
  • Never attack or make an argument personal, the person at the other end of the conversation is a human being with feelings.
  • If you can’t be friends, at least be friendly.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions, often when given time, things look differently upon reflection.

Your thoughts on my thoughts are, as always, welcome.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saturn Run By John Sandford And Cetin - A Great Story That Is Rocket Science

Saturn Run by John Sanford and Ctein (2015)

Arguably, spending a lot of time on Facebook can often payoff if one pays attention to posts, especially if those posts are by people who are in the know. So one afternoon, I notice that David Gerrold, who often posts about various topics, makes a statement about some new SciFi books that he felt were well worth reading. Since I like Mr. Gerrold’s writing, and since he liked the books that he was talking about, I might like them too.

Saturn Run is the story of a mission to Saturn that is prompted by the accidental discovery of a starship entering our solar system and docking with a somewhat larger object in the ring system of that planet. While the Chinese are already building a ship that is slated to go to Mars, upon the discovery of the object near Saturn, they immediately begin to retool their ship for a trip to the ringed planet. The United States has no ship preparing for a Mars run, but it does have several space stations in orbit around Earth, so the U.S. determines to retool one of the space stations for a Saturn run, but the challenge is to arrive at the object before the Chinese and the race is on.

Along with the challenges of reaching Saturn first, there are also many other challenges such as engine breakdowns that appear to be a result of sabotage, as well as challenges involving crew and passengers on the long trip there and hopefully, back again. The crew of the American ship, the Richard M. Nixon, consists of a seasoned commander and first officer, numerous scientists and engineers, and a very light military presence.

Even though the Chinese ship leaves earth orbit earlier, the Nixon takes a more perilous route going very near the Sun, and arrives first. What they find is nothing less than knowledge that can advance science immeasurably for the people of the Earth.  But as usually happens when governments are involved, there is a struggle over who will actually benefit the most from the discoveries.

Saturn Run is a hard science fiction thriller that keeps a reader guessing. I didn’t find anything predictable until the very end of the story when I knew that the supposedly lost information gathered from the object in orbit around Saturn would be preserved by at least one very resourceful individual. Other than that, there were twists and turns galore; on numerous occasions, just when I though the action was going to get pretty intense, there was a more sensible and realistic solution found to whatever the problem was. There is also an element of mystery about the novel as there is an obvious mole on board the Nixon, but we really never find out who it is. While this was something I wondered about, it in no way got in the way of a very well written and entertaining story.

The characters in the story are interesting and the reader gets enough background on at least the main characters to understand who they are. The story starts out by focusing on Sandy, an apparently ne'er do well throwback to the 1960’s hippy culture, but is absolutely not what he originally appears to be. He is actually a very talented videographer and a former military officer who suffers from a form of PTSD that is controlled by medication. Another character is Crow, an aide as well as the eyes and ears of the President of the U.S. Crow has many talents and people skills, but is not above resorting to other darker tactics when the need arises. Speaking of the President, she is portrayed as an intelligent, strong willed woman who is capable of some degree of wrath when she believes that her wishes are not being carried out. The captain of the Nixon is also a woman who has a strong will that often clashes with the wishes of her superiors, but as a career officer, she is honor bound to follow orders. Her counterpart on the Chinese vessel is a man who is loyal to his government, but only to a point. He is an honorable man who loses his life when those under his command fear that he might jeopardize the goals of his superiors because of his honor.

The authors do a great job to give one the feeling of what it might be like to travel for long distances in space with conventional means of propulsion. In this story, there is no faster than light travel and the Nixon has to go to lengths to ramp up their speed to break out of the gravity well of the Earth and then begin to decelerate into the gravity well of Saturn. While this operation does not go well in the story (the Nixon was slated to arrive several weeks before the Chinese, but managed only to arrive days before) the American crew do manage to use the planet’s gravity to get where they needed to be, albeit a little later than anticipated.  While on the journey, crew manage to entertain themselves in various ways, including some that are less than ideal causing some bad feelings among members, especially those that are not knowledgeable of military discipline aboard a ship.  Some members of the crew are constantly busy though, especially Sandy and a reporter who are charged with documenting every aspect of the mission for both the general public as well as the government.

As those of us who have followed the space program for any number of years, space travel is not routine or easy. The authors illustrate this in their story with the loss of life on a few occasions due to accidents and even through conflict between the powers that are vying to obtain any information that will help advance their causes. One death in particular is very sad and addressed in the epilogue of the story.

As mentioned earlier, the science in this story is very evident in the descriptions of what is needed to get from one place to another in the solar system. The engines that the Nixon use are retrofitted onto a vehicle that is not designed for that particular system and it is up to a brilliant engineer to design a system to keep the engines from overheating. That engineer’s solution is a fascinating system that runs a ribbon of molten metal outside the ship to dissipate heat into open space and is recycled back into the engine to pick up more heat. The last several pages of the book are a more extensive explanation of the science involved to make the story realistic, and yes it is rocket science.

John Sandford and Ctein
If you enjoy hard science fiction, then this book is a great one to read. Overall I really enjoyed this novel and found it an outstanding mixture of plot, science, intrigue, and conflict that I highly recommend Saturn Run as outstanding science fiction. If you would like to know more about the authors, I recommend going to their websites, JohnSandford.org and Ctein.com.

Well, there it is…

Qaplah!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Man In The High Castle - Amazon Brilliantly Realizes The Novel By Philip K. Dick - Sheer Awesomeness!


The Man In The High Castle - Television Series Based On Philip K. Dick’s Novel Of The Same Title

In March of 2013 I reviewed P.K.D.’s The Man In The High Castle on this blog on the heels of an announcement that Amazon.com would be making a television series for their Prime streaming service. In short, I enjoyed the book finding it thought provoking.

After a release of the pilot episode earlier this year, the television series was released this past November. I was surprised that the entire series of ten episodes was released all at once and available for streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime.

The story is set in 1962 post World War II United States, but the U.S. depicted in the show is nothing like anything we would recognize because the war was won by Germany and Japan, the Axis powers.  The United States have been divided into three sections with the Nazis in control of the eastern part of the country and west coast under the control of the Japanese.  In between, a strip of land running from north to south and roughly following the Rocky Mountains is called the Neutral Zone.  There is a palpable tension between the Nazis and the Japanese, especially since Hitler is aging and more ambitious individuals seek to take power when he is either killed or dies.  Thanks to one character in the story, the Japanese have the capability of building an atomic weapon while the Nazis already have theirs. Meanwhile, films are surfacing that depict a different outcome of the war that is more in line with our history.  As these films surface, both factions in charge of the U.S. are trying to get hold of them to keep the population from inciting to riot. An underground resistance movement also seeks to possess the films and  deliver them to a mysterious character known as the man in the high castle.

As I stated earlier, the story is based on P.K.D.’s book, but it does not entirely follow the story as laid out in the book. There are numerous story elements that are preserved in the series though, and I am completely okay with that. One of the elements that has been preserved is how dark and disturbing the world of Dick’s alternate post WWII world is. The population of the U.S. has been almost completely assimilated into the cultures that dominate the two areas of the country that are controlled by the Axis powers. While the Nazi controlled east would seem not to be quite as oppressed as one might think, on the surface, everything would seem to be normal, with the exception that there are a lot of Nazi style uniforms with armbands that incorporate the swastika into the red and white stripes of the U.S. Flag.  At one point, late in the series, there is a celebration of V.A. (Victory over America) Day that looks much like a 4th of July celebration, complete with fireworks, and flags flying in the breeze that has the blue field of stars on our flag replaced with the Nazi symbol.  As I said, more than just a bit disturbing.

At the same time, while the east is normal on the surface, the American Nazis work more behind the scenes to maintain order. This is not the case in the Japanese controlled west, where the population has been beaten into submission by the controlling government.  As far as the Japanese are concerned, American natives are simply a resource to be exploited and disposed of when no longer needed. The Japanese style of rule is depicted as being openly brutal to serve as a constant reminder of who is in charge.

All of this is depicted by the movements of four main characters throughout the series so far.

Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) Is a young woman living in San Francisco and would seem to have assimilated well into the culture imposed by the Japanese. She has studied the martial art of aikido and is quite proficient. While she, like most other Americans in the west, are just trying to survive and make life as comfortable as possible, she unwillingly finds herself becoming a part of the resistance movement when her sister is killed in front of her trying to deliver one of the films. As time goes on, Juliana finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the resistance while managing to avoid being captured or killed on numerous occasions. She unwittingly becomes involved with a Nazi agent who saves her life causing her to have a sense of misplaced loyalty to him

That Nazi agent is Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) who is given the mission of infiltrating the resistance based in the neutral area of the country. As he travels, he sees things happening and remains loyal to his controller, but would also seem to have doubts as he encounters Juliana and begins to have feelings for her. At the same time, Juliana has feelings for him and manages to help Joe evade being killed when it is discovered who he really is working for.

Joe’s controller, Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith is a family man, but is also the sole head of the SS in the U.S. His loyalty to the party is without question and he is not above using any means necessary to achieve his goal of putting down the resistance, including committing murder of disloyal fellow officers and threatening the lives of the families of those under his control. His behavior in the series is deceptively appealing until one remembers that he is a high ranking member of an oppressive government.

Juliana’s boyfriend, Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), is of Jewish heritage and has to go to lengths to conceal this as he might be extradited to the Nazis for execution.  Frank works in a factory that produces replicas of weapons to be sold to the Japanese. When he comes under investigation of the Kempeitai (the Japanese counterpart of the Nazi SS) for his relationship with Juliana, he faces execution. His sister and her children are instead killed prompting Frank to insist on taking action by converting one of the replicas of a weapon into a working model and going after a very high ranking Japanese official.  His attempt is thwarted when he is beaten to the punch by another assassin. Nevertheless, Frank is then forced to try to avoid being captured by the Kempeitai and executed.

As political tensions between the Nazis and the Japanese rise over the impending power vacuum that will be created by the death of Hitler, the Japanese Trade Minister, Nobosuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) works clandestinely with a high-ranking Nazi to try to avoid what he fears will be a nuclear attack by the Nazis to take over sole control of the globe.

Two other characters that should be noted are Chief Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) and his assistant Sergeant Yoshido (Lee Shorten). They are the Kempeitei officers who seem to get into everyone’s business in pursuit of dissidents and disloyal Japanese citizens. They are very cool, calm and collected as they go about their business, but their sense of harmony covers a ruthlessness that is to be avoided at all costs.  I should note that the actor Joel de la Fuente was also in a short-lived series that I dearly loved called Space - Above and Boyond. It was great to see him back on screen and showing more of his acting range.

The Man In The High Castle is well written, well acted, and very compelling. Again, the story in the television series does not follow the novel to the letter, it does set the right mood and there is plenty of Dick’s work integrated to make it very recognizable as the authors foundation.  The story does not move quickly and gives the viewer plenty of time to reflect on what has happened and really get an understanding of what is at stake for the characters. There are numerous scenes of intense action that are well thought out and move at a pace that is digestible in a single viewing. However, there are some scenes that are very graphic in nature, or are also quite suggestive, but are done in a way that advance the story and always keep the attention on the story and the characters.

Overall, as I mentioned before, the story moves along at a rather slow, cerebral pace and so does the character development. The back stories of the main characters unfolds at a snail’s pace and we only get what we need to know as it is relevant to what is happening on the screen. Continuity was apparently very important to the story because every episode picked up where the last left off. This is a great television series and I highly recommend it for fans of Philip K. Dick, dystopian stories, or just really good television in general. Be careful though, as I did, you will be tempted to watch the entire series in one day.

This show is serious, gritty, disturbing, depressing and awesome. I think that the opening credits sequence sets the mood quite well...


Well, there it is…


Qaplah!