Creating the Alt World–Book explores adapting Dick’s complex The Man in the High Castle for the screen

Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re accustomed to seeing non-fiction tie-in books digging into what makes the big sci-fi franchises so popular.  But it’s only a recent trend that publishers are meeting fan demand by digging into those television series that don’t have the established fan bases and studio support.  Firefly was probably the first series to break out in this way, but publishers are now seeing–thanks to streaming platforms specifically–that fans want more content about their favorite shows.  Following recent books like Jeff Bond’s The World of The Orville (reviewed here at borg) and The Art and Making of the Expanse (reviewed here), the next acclaimed science fiction series has a behind-the-scenes account with Mike Avila’s The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World from Titan Books.

Designed almost identically to the successful The World of The Orville, this look at Amazon Studios’ The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World is both an overview of the series, its characters, its source material, and the creation of its detailed alternate world, and it’s also a visit with the creators behind and in front of the camera that made a complex, highly regarded work of classic sci-fi literature into a compelling benchmark in television storytelling.  As we’ve seen in interviews with Lisa Henson in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance–Inside the Epic Return to Thra and interviews about the Broccoli family in The Many Lives of Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy, this look at the Amazon series provides one of fandom’s first glimpses at Philip K. Dick’s daughter, Dick estate trustee and series executive producer Isa Dick Hackett.  So whether you liked (or not) how the series took portions of the novel, left some behind, and added new bits, Hackett explains the thought process behind the production’s choices.

The book covers the entire series–all four seasons–and is divided into four sections by theater: the Japanese Pacific States, the Neutral Zone, the Greater Nazi Reich, and Alternate Worlds, and these sections further highlight specific components of the series, including characters, locations, design, costumes, props, and music.  There’s even a section on creating the creepy opening title sequence, slightly altered each season.  And stills of the signage, both re-created concepts and alternate history imagery, provide fans the opportunity to at last study them in detail.

The book is a great overview, reminding fans of all the major characters in the story that didn’t survive to the final season.  The production designers’ concept drawings are something different from what we’ve seen before in TV and film “art books,” showing more multimedia mock-ups and proposed set renderings.

Fans of historical costume dramas will appreciate the detail of the costumes and sets in the Neutral Zone section especially, and science fiction aficionados will love the section on the “multiverse room.”

Readers can see how shifting costume designers mid-series–with Audrey Fisher′s authentic 1940s and 1950s style moving to Catherine Adair′s alternate melding of ideas for the parallel universe–allowed for a different look of the changing story’s focus.

It all makes for a great tribute to a remarkable television series.  For fans of the series and science fiction on the big or small screen, The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World is available now in a full color hardcover edition here at Amazon.

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