Louis Hoffman as Jonas Kahnwald

Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, co-creators of DARK, sold their masterful production to Netflix sometime in 2016-17. It began streaming in December 1, 2017. Rated PG-13 (a couple of sex scenes more than graphic violence). This series is dubbed in English. It’s done well, you’ll likely not notice after watching for a few minutes.

Here are 5 reasons to check out DARK…

  1. DARK is part mystery, part scifi and part thriller…in a similar way that Stranger Things draws in the viewer, so does this tale.
  2. Yet…DARK is smarter than Stranger Things. Throw in human angst, religion, time travel, Goethe and Nietzche and you’ve got a jumble of ideas that provoke any viewer.
  3. Perfect for binge-watching over Christmas vacay.
  4. The casting was done well and there a number of brilliant performances, including those of the child actors.
  5. If you like a good soundtrack, this one is pitch perfect, utterly creepy and poignant.

 

Longer Review:

Black holes are considered to be the hellmouths of the universe. Those who fall inside disappear. Forever. But where to? What lies behind a black hole? Along with things, do space and time also vanish there? Or would space and time be tied together and be part of an endless cycle? What if everything that came from the past were influenced by the future?

H.G. Tannhaus

 

There are a number of reasons why DARK has been compared to Stranger Things. The main one is that it features a small town where an unnatural mystery is unfolding within its boundaries. Other ways in which it feels familiar: A couple of the main characters are policemen and youth are important to the story. DARK is “dark” and may not have the charm of the funny and sweet tween friendships at the heart of Stranger Things, but the narrative takes on the isolation and claustrophobia of small town life. It features a number of disaffected teens and adults, not often friendly toward one another, all living in Winden.

Winden is the fictional German town where a tunnel under a nuclear power plant holds mystery. The story opens with the suicide of one of the town’s people in current time and unravels from there. Tidbits of the mystery are revealed. Various families and their histories who live in Winden are revealed. Within a few episodes, the audience begins to see the tangled mess. Not only are these folks relationally connected, they are connected by a society of time travelers, who go by the name Sic Mundus, meaning “thus the world was created”. By the end of the first season, the audience understands that fate, individual choice and the agency of those who understand the dynamics around time travel, will continue to hinder or help Winden restore some semblance of order to their community.

The first season was much acclaimed and the second (I have not watched yet) apparently did not disappoint. A third season is under production as I write. I can’t speak highly enough of DARK, the story, the performances, the music and visuals. There is much artistry in this production and it is a welcome reality for story consumers to see another brilliant tale come from a place beyond Hollywoodland.

Congrats to these filmmakers and I look forward to viewing and reviewing season 2 in the coming weeks.

Short Book Review with No Spoilers… 

Julian May’s THE MANY COLORED LAND is an exceptional adventure that takes place in Pliocene Europe, think Tolkien meets Jules Verne. This is the first story in a trilogy, involving time travel and aliens. The world created by May is so imaginative, while being true to fossil record and prehistoric science. It’s like taking a course in geology, mammalian evolution and ancient flora all in one.

Three Reasons to Read this Great Book

  1. Superior world building and vibrant descriptive passages that will delight most scifi lovers.
  2. A humanoid alien race with a distinctive culture, a compelling ally or enemy?
  3. A complicated conflict between humans and aliens that drives the narrative
  4. A female author with mad writing skills. Julian May was unknown to many of my scifi-reading friends until a woman in my scifi book group introduced us to THE MANY COLORED LAND.

To buy this book, click here.

The Longer Review…With a Few Spoilers

The novel opens with a prologue, three essential scenes that set the adventure in motion. I needed to go back and re-read the first two to realize their relevance because there’s no context at that point for the reader to get them. Therefore, I promptly forget them. (Maybe in my younger years I would have recalled them at the right moment, much later in the story…or maybe not!)

The third scene remains memorable. It introduces the reader to a time travel machine and the human scientist who created it. A broader picture of current human existence becomes evident in this scene as scientists from many planets and many species gather to see the machine in operation. Earth’s children have become a part of a larger galactic cooperative, called the Galactic Milieu. The time machine is tested and its limitations are explained. The machine can only send beings back in history, only into Pliocene Europe. No messages can be sent back the other way, none of the beings who travel back in time will be able to return.

The scientist dies, his wife, Madame Guderian, contemplates what to do with the time machine. She begins to hear from various members of her species. Many feel a desire to leave their current situations. They want adventure or purity, something other than what they are experiencing. Many are lost souls, but others desire a simpler existence. She begins sending groups of people back to the Pliocene as a money-making scheme. There are rules, of course, to avoid messing up human evolution, so all females are sterilized before departing. The assumption is that the great ice age and the inability to procreate will bring an ultimate end to whatever societies form in this prehistoric exile. There are also limits to the kind of technology they bring.

The story proceeds to describe a number of human individuals currently living in the Galactic Milieu, all of whom find themselves dissatisfied with their lives in various ways and make the decision to go back in time. Each person has about a chapter of backstory before they come together. They are the characters the reader follows into the Pliocene, landing in the past about 1/4 of the way into the novel.

What follows is an experience in pre-history Europa, with a few good twists. This is scifi, yet fantasy-like, in that the world of the past is a place not unlike medieval Europe, given the absence of technology and another twist…aliens…who have crash-landed on Pliocene Earth. I really cannot say more without giving too much away.

However, here is a  taste of May’s lovely writing, a descriptive passage of the Pliocene Black Forest

“The understorey of this evergreen expanse received very little sun. Its plants–only saprophytes nourished by the detritus of the great trees. Some of the things that battened on decomposition were degenerate flowering plants, pale stalks with nodding ghostly blooms of livid white, maroon, or speckled yellow; but paramount among the eaters of the dead were the myxomycetes and the fungi. To the five humans traveling through the Pliocene Black Forest it seemed that these, and not the towering conifers, were the dominant form of life.

They were quivering sheets of orange or white or dusty translucent jelly that crept slowly over the duff of needles and decaying wood like giant amebae. There were bracket fungi–from delicate pink ones resembling baby ears to stiff jumbos that jutted from the trunks like stair treads and were capable of bearing a man’s weight. There were spongy masses of mottled black and white that enveloped several square meters of forest floor as though veiling some unspeakable atrocity. There were airy filaments, pale blue and ivory and scarlet, that hung from rotting limbs like tattered lacework. The forest harbored puffball globes two and a half meters in diameter, and others as small as pearls from a broken string. One variety of fungus cloaked decaying shapes in brittle husks resembling colored popcorn. There were obscene things resembling cancerous organs; graceful ranks of upright fans; counterfeit slabs of raw meat; handsome polished shapes like ebony stars; oozing diseased purple phalluses; faerie parasols blown inside out; furry sausages; and mushrooms and toadstools in varieties the seemed to be without number. At night, they were phosphorescent.”

Another aspect of this novel that I want to write about another time (because this post is getting exceedingly long!) is the way May turns Tolkien ideals on their head. Elves, Humans, Goblins and Orcs? Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? May’s novel upends the notions set forth in the Tolkien universe and I appreciate how she does it. Julian May died about one year ago, October 17, 2017. I think it’s time to bring this book back into the scifi mainstream and celebrate her for being an imaginative storyteller.