Monday, November 23, 2020

DARK (Netflix series, 2017-2020): A Review

 DARK (Netflix series, 2017-2020): A Review

Warning: Spoilers ahead

In order to make sure this review of the Netflix series DARK was accurate and fair, I had to watch (and by ”watch” I mean ”endure”) all three seasons, beginning to end.

How do I describe that experience in a few words...

To quote Leslie Nielsen in one of his comedy movies: ”Do any of you understand how a man can hurt inside?”

The plot of DARK can be summed up as ”Back to the Future in Germany” – which also sounds like the premise of a hilarious parody sketch. Picture this hypothetical sketch as a send-up of the crudest German cultural stereotypes.

It would include the following features:

1. The entire story must take place in a single German town, surrounded by a forest so vast and dense, it seems the land has never been cultivated or farmed.

Why? Because a huge forest is ”mysterious” and ”laden with secrets,” just like EVERY DAMN FOREST IN EVERY DAMN TV SERIES EVER MADE SINCE TWIN PEAKS.

2. The atmosphere must be consistently dour, and overdone to the point of pomposity. The color scheme should be mainly gray.

3. Somber fatalism must control every single character. They will try to change the past and future, but it will always prove impossible. That point must be repeated, and repeated and repeated ad nauseam.

None of the characters are allowed to resist being manipulated and pushed around by a ridiculously convoluted plot, because ”follow orders” is the underlying philosophy.

4. Everyone must stare at each other in a very drawn-out, angsty way most of the time. It's called ”Serious Acting.” Stare, stare, stare...

Did I hear someone in the audience titter...? What are you tittering about? 

5. What was a joking subplot (or dark undercurrent) in Back to the Future – that hopping back and forth in time might lead to someone becoming one's own parent – must be turned into a vast, dead-serious incest scheme.

Everyone must become everyone's father, mother, uncle, son, daughter... so that in the end there is really just one person ”effing around” with itself – figuratively and literally. Never mind the natural genetic consequences of all this inbreeding!

6. And remember, no laughing. Around the fifth or sixth time a character is ”revealed” to be related to another character through-time travel... or meets his/her own self from another time... this must still be presented as a surprise shocker, with the utmost seriousness.

This is serious drama! I will have no tittering in the audience!

7. The characters must increasingly act and talk in the same way, and since they are all biologically related due to the time-travel plot, there are no ”foreign races” in the story. None of Germany's real ethnic minorities seem to exist in this claustrophobic, incestuous Aryan microcosm – no Jews, Blacks, Muslims etc.

(Perhaps you can have one of the characters say out loud, without a trace of irony: ”Life in this town sucks – but at least there's no racism!”)

8. Heavy-handed references to Nietschze (the ”Eternal Return”) and other dour, very German philosophers should be everywhere to be found. None of them must offer a sliver of optimism.

9. Don't mention the war! There's time travel in Frickin' Germany – and not once must anyone be allowed to say out loud, ”What if we tried to stop Hitler?”

10. Is the whole edifice starting to collapse under the weight of its own pretentiousness? Is the plot getting so repetitive, the audience risks falling asleep?

Quick – play a pop song over the soundtrack to make things seem ”deep”! And a ”meaningful” montage. Sprinkle with some unnecessary slow-motion – the hallmark of a pretentious hack.

11. Uh-oh – it looks like people in the audience are so bored out of their minds, they're starting to think... about how convoluted and ridiculous the plot has become. Time for some distracting ”tell-don't-show."

Play a ponderous voiceover – accompained by a soundtrack sounding like mewing cats – that ”explains” how there is no free will, and the characters must obey the increasingly idiotic plot because...

Because...

...because we're saying, over and over, that they have no choice. (Yeah! Just repeat your big, bold bullshit until it is believed! That's writing advice straight from... I forgot who said it first.)

12. Throw in a passing reference to Back to the Future... but otherwise pretend that time-travel is something utterly new and totally incomprehensible, as if neither the characters nor the audience have ever heard about such a thing before.

Not one person in the series is allowed to read science fiction, watch science fiction, or be familiar with it. (This ”We-have-just-invented-the-Wheel-isn't-it-amazing?” attitude is a typical fallacy of mainstream writers who try their hand at speculative fiction.)

13. Finally, wrap up the third season... oh, but you can't wrap it up! All the time-hopping has destroyed any sense of a coherent, meaningful narrative. All you have is a dreary, depressing, meaningless tangle of puppet characters robbed of all agency.

(I mean literally robbed of agency; there's a ludicrous scene where a gun refuses to work only because the script – sorry, ”Fate” – says so.)

So just bail out of the whole mess. Burn it all down. And let the audience breathe a great sigh of relief that at long last, the pointless suffering is over – mainly for them, but also for the characters.

[Deep breath.]


So, have I picked every bone I had to pick with DARK?

What the hell, let's twist the knife in all the way... It's tempting to suspect that this painfully turgid drama is really about what isn't being said.

The proverbial dog that didn't bark in the DARK: World War II is never mentioned or even alluded to. Characters travel back in time to several periods in Germany's history – except the period 1933 - 1945.

What if one of the characters in this series did propose to use the available time travel devices to stop Adolf Hitler's rise to power? Following the basic premise of the whole narrative, that every event must happen the way it does, we'd get into some ”dark” waters indeed:

Angstful, Grave DARK Character #1: ”We could travel back in time to the 1920s and stop Hitler. We won't even have to kill him! Just cripple his capacity for speech. Damage his vocal chords or his tongue.”

Angstful, Grave DARK Character #2: ”No. We cannot prevent Hitler, nor any of all the horrors he caused, for it is predestined by Time. All of it. The mass hysteria, the war, the concentration camps, the gas chambers, the destruction, the death of millions, had to happen. If we try to prevent the Holocaust, we will only cause it to happen. We are merely following the orders of our supreme Fuehrer, fate itself... or we wouldn't exist. We are destiny... and that absolves us of all moral responsibility.”

One might respond that Germany's history has nothing at all to do with this fictional story – but that is simply not credible. This story is explicitly about about the impossibility of changing history, through repeated time travel, in a country that is very explicitly Germany.

If
the scriptwriter had had the nerve to go that far – to really shock the audience by spelling out that these Germans wouldn't try to stop Hitler even if they could – then I would've been a bit impressed, perhaps enough to scrap this scathing review.

Instead, the ”Hitler is Fate” subtext (which, by the way, is bullshit) lies hidden between the lines. Where others might see ”intellectual” art, I see a piece of prententious art that poses as ”dark” but is actually a cop-out. If it hadn't cranked up the ”dark” posture to eleven, I wouldn't have been so harsh on it.

If the series had offered a morsel of humor, a crumb of irony, all would have been forgiven.

And let me disprove any idea that DARK had to be so humorless because ”Germans have no sense of humor." Before DARK, I watched a German movie on Netflix titled LOOK WHO'S BACK (2015) , wherein Adolf Hitler magically reappears in modern-day Berlin, and immediately continues his career as a dangerous demagogue.

That movie is not only a successful, timely satire, but quite funny – which proves that of course Germans are capable of dealing with difficult subjects and can even joke about them. The ”edge” in LOOK WHO'S BACK is that there's no diversionary talk about ”fate.” The responsibility for the rise of a demagogue is pointed squarely at his followers and those who did nothing to stop him.


To sum up: I would argue – and I'm only half joking – that the plot of DARK could be much simplified (and shortened – God, yes!) if it only involved a single snail (snails being hermaphrodites) that traveled back in time, impregnated its younger self... and then let that younger snail hatch the egg that would later become itself.

A snail would also make a superbly condensed character metaphor, bringing out the very essence of what the DARK scriptwriter apparently was striving for.

It is slimy to the touch... and it has no spine.

All done. I'll pull the knife out now.

But let's be nice – just a little: DARK wasn't the originator of the ”pretending-to-be-deep” TV series as a phenomenon. Before DARK there was LOST (as in ”We lost the plot and couldn't find it”)... and other shows built around hyping up a ”mystery” that in the end amounted to a big meh.

Like Rorschach tests, these ”blots-on-a-paper” stories mean very little except what we read into them. So what is their appeal? I have a hypothesis: Perhaps such TV shows exist to try and fill the spiritual needs that used to be satisifed by religion?

The medieval Catholic mystery play has been resurrected as the secular mystifying TV drama. It promises a revelation that will bring back spiritual mystery to modern life – except that for some reason (which you will have to figure out) it can't deliver. 

Sic tedium creatus est.



Sunday, November 22, 2020

Book review: EMBASSYTOWN by China Miéville

EMBASSYTOWN (2011) by China Miéville

I struggled to finish this novel, as it tended to drag... and also because of my doubt that its central premise might possibly be wrongheaded.

When I finally got to the end, I felt reassured that EMBASSYTOWN wasn't a dud, and there were some really enjoyable parts.

EMBASSYTOWN deals with linguistics and consciousness – i.e. how language itself shapes our awareness of the world and ourselves in it.

”Embassytown” is a human settlement on a planet where humans try to co-exist with an indigenous alien species, the Ariekei. These aliens have a concept of language that is radically different from all human communication. The Ariekei way of speaking is difficult to explain – and because of this complexity, I soon started to doubt: Are these aliens really credible?

At times, I wondered whether the Ariekei would end up like the aliens, robots and computers in 1960s TV shows that break down if you tell them a paradox or just ask ”Why?” It didn't turn out that way, fortunately, and the Ariekei were allowed to evolve to an impressive depth.

Stylistically, EMBASSYTOWN is slick and has an original ”writer's voice” which I like. There are neat typographic tricks to convey alien speech (and which probably can't be translated to an audiobook). The imaginative depiction of alien environments and characters are the best parts of this book.

But then comes that nagging doubt... are the Ariekei possible?

Of course science fiction should present aliens that are ”different” – it's just that these particular aliens are given such a glaring weakness, and at the same time have advanced biotechnology.

(Okay, we humans have our own glaring weaknesses, so who are we to say that a fictional alien intelligence is ”inconsistent” or ”too vulnerable”?)

I'm still not entirely convinced the alien language in EMBASSYTOWN really is logically possible. Perhaps a professional linguist could analyze it and explain.

(Side note: I had similar issues with Peter Watts' novel BLINDSIGHT (2006), but that one was worse. It proposed an alien species I struggled to find credible, because the author claimed something very important about these aliens but then couldn't prove it. BLINDSIGHT resorted to a ”straw-man” argument to prove its premise, which unfortunately undermined the premise itself – seriously, vampires as an example of alien intelligence? In a science fiction novel? – but that's the subject of another review. End of side note.)

There is also the problem that the novel meanders. It could have benefited from tighter plotting and fewer secondary characters. I skimmed several passages, something I rarely do. But it arrived at a satifying conclusion.

Criticisms aside: I admire the author's skill, and his daring exploration of language, and that made the novel worth reading.

EMBASSYTOWN is recommended for lovers of ”highbrow” science fiction, and for readers who want stories about strange alien cultures.


#bookstagram #bookstagrammers #bookreviews #bookreview #books #literature #sciencefiction #aliens #seti #chinamieville #linguistics

 


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

EBOOK GIVEAWAY - Nov. 13-15, 2020

EBOOK GIVEAWAY - Nov. 13-15, 2020: "ALIEN BEACH" (science fiction novel) My sci-fi novel ALIEN BEACH will be available for FREE download in the weekend Nov. 13-15, here:

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Book trailer: THE TIME IDIOT - Sci-Fi satire

 

THE PRESIDENT HAS A TIME MACHINE. BUT DON'T PANIC.

The born-again religious, recovering alcoholic, not-too-bright U.S. President Prescott "Pres" Walker is desperate. He fears he will end his presidency as a failure, and needs a miracle to turn things around...

Then he learns that the military has secretly developed the world's first time machine.

His Vice President, the sinister and secretive Zack Cutter, convinces Prescott to seize the time machine and "set history straight" -- all he has to do is go back in time and make a few small alterations, and all the problems of the present will go away!

That's the plan, anyway. But even the smallest alterations of the past can have unforeseen consequences... especially when you're as clumsy as "Pres" Walker. The greatest misadventure of all time begins. And history... is history!

The novel THE TIME IDIOT is available on Amazon.

#satire #scifi #sciencefiction #books #literature #booktrailer

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Book trailer: DARC AGES - the epic series



THE DARK AGES HAVE RETURNED...

Civilization has fragmented into tiny city-states, separated by a terrifying worldwide plague.

DARC AGES - the epic book series
Available on Amazon Visit the official website


#darcages #books #dystopia #postapocalypse #plague

Book trailer: PRECINCT 20: DEAD STRANGE


 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Book review: THE RAW SHARK TEXTS by Steven Hall

THE RAW SHARK TEXTS (2007) by Steven Hall

This is a very, very unusual novel. I like it.

I don't want to spoil the twist hidden inside... so let me just point out how the book uses typography, the letters themselves, to become part of the story.

It must have been hard work to create the typographic images on the pages (you probably should read it in print to appreciate the effect).

If you are open to something experimental, and you're prepared to be mystified, then you should read - or rather experience - this one-of-a-kind book.

And if you like it, do recommend it to others.

P.S.: But wait! It gets complicated: On the book's Wikipedia page, you can read this:

The Raw Shark Texts consists of 36 core chapters bound into the novel itself, and an additional 36 "lost" sections, known as "negatives" or "un-chapters" which exist outside of the main printed text.[4] These extra 'un-chapters' (also written by Steven Hall) have been found periodically since the book's initial release, hidden either online or in the real world. Unique negative content has also been discovered in several translated editions of the Raw Shark Texts since publication of the original English language edition in 2007.


Thursday, October 01, 2020

Fem sätt att hjälpa en författare


Fem sätt att hjälpa en författare:
1. Köp boken
2. Låna boken på bibliotek
3. Prata och skriv om boken
4. Följ och gilla författaren på sociala medier
5. Skriv en recension

Speciellt i dessa tider, när jag inte kan sälja böcker på mässor och kongresser, betyder ditt stöd extra mycket. En liten gest räcker långt!
#aryngve #författare #skrivande #skrivarliv #författarliv #skriva #skriv #litteratur #kultur

Monday, September 21, 2020

Book review: THE UNPLEASANT PROFESSION OF JONATHAN HOAG by Robert A. Heinlein

THE UNPLEASANT PROFESSION OF JONATHAN HOAG (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein

This book (which has been reprinted many times) contains the novella ”The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” - plus several short stories by the same author.

The title story is strange, but in a good way - an early example of ”urban fantasy”. It leaves you with a sense of deeper mystery, like a memorable episode of THE X-FILES.

Among the other featured stories, these two really stand out:

”And He Built a Crooked House” (1941) – An architect builds a house that accidentally becomes four-dimensional, with bizarre results. I found it very funny.

”All You Zombies” (1959) – This time-travel story is perhaps the weirdest thing Heinlein ever wrote, and some readers might be put off by just how far down the rabbit hole it goes. The story was later made into the critically acclaimed movie PREDESTINATION (2014).

Recommended for readers of ”weird fiction” and mind-bending fantasy.

#bookstagram #bookstagrammers #bookreviews #bookreview #books #literature #sciencefiction #aliens #fantasy #robertaheinlein #theunpleasantprofessionofjonathanhoag #allyouzombies

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Läs mina böcker på Nextory!

Flera av mina svenska böcker finns nu på Nextory.

Du hittar dem HÄR.

Med Nextory kan du läsa och lyssna på eböcker med mobilen, var som helst.



Monday, August 31, 2020

Book review: AIR by Geoff Ryman

AIR (2004) by Geoff Ryman

Life in a remote, tiny Central Asian village is transformed by a new kind of World Wide Web called "Air" (a breakthrough in "cloud computing"). The novel AIR focuses on the life of one single woman in this village where "everybody knows everybody," and how she uses Air to improve her situation.

Eventually, Air causes much more radical change, and there are some quite surprising twists. The village will never be the same again - it has been irrevocably connected to a larger world with immense, ambiguous possibilities.

This is a moving, likeable and optimistic story. You care for the characters, who lead small lives but are caught up in something much bigger than themselves.

Though AIR is science fiction, it also contains (in my opinion) an obvious element of magical realism. (No spoilers, but... get ready for a surprise. )

Recommended for readers of all genres.
_______
#geoffryman #air #bookstagram #bokstagram #bookstagrammer #bookreview #bookreviews #bookcover #bookcovers #bookstagrammers #bookbloggers #reviews #books #literature #novels #novel #book #sciencefiction #fantasy #magicalrealism #www #cloudcomputing #internet #reviews #review #scifi

Friday, August 28, 2020

Book review: DUNE by Frank Herbert

 

DUNE (1965) by Frank Herbert

Finally, I've read this novel. I saw the 1984 movie first – a mistake, and I didn't like it.
The book, as the saying goes, was better.

DUNE may superficially seem to be an epic ”space opera” with the hero Paul Atreides fighting villains for the fate of the universe in an imaginative interplanetary setting... but it gets more interesting than that.

The author has created a unique world with its own societies, complex characters and a plot revolving around ecology, anthropology, politics, religion and mysticism.

Paul Atreides is not a typical space opera protagonist – he is more of a tragic figure driven by a fate he didn't choose and struggles to control. The novel is packed with foreshadowing, suggesting that Paul has to accept his destiny rather than master it. Also, the power he gains changes him (and not in a nice way).

Exotic drugs play a central role in the story (unsurprisingly, DUNE was a big hit in the 1960s) – and that's where it wanders off from SF into something more like Fantasy. There are several ”trippy” key scenes , where the characters literally get stoned outside of their minds.

Since this is space opera, it is constrained by the same genre limitations as STAR WARS. If DUNE takes place in a galactic empire, why does it seem so small? How can a few characters control the fate of an entire galaxy? How can they travel faster than light?

Why do they fight with medieval weapons in the far future? Why are the women not more liberated? How does an emperor ”rule” a galaxy anyway? Yet, the whole thing still works.

What I admire most about DUNE is the author's attention to characters, detail and style. Frank Herbert simply wrote better than most of his contemporary genre colleagues (and perhaps better than many known SF authors active today).

For example: When Paul Atreides kills a minor adversary, this death has consequences. The killed adversary is painstakingly buried and paid last respects, and the hero is forced to take care of his widow and her children. (How often do you see that in genre fiction?)

DUNE is required reading for any lover of great ”world building” in SF and Fantasy. It's a genuine classic that has inspired many other, lesser works. It can be a heavy read at the start, as the setting is so densely described and detailed... but it will draw you in.

Thoroughly recommended.


(NOTE: This novel has many sequels, in case you thought the first book ended too abruptly.)

#bookstagram #bookstagrammers #bookreviews #bookreview #books #literature #sciencefiction ##scifi #sciencefiction #fantasy #sciencefantasy #spaceopera #frankherbert #dune #arrakis


Wednesday, August 19, 2020