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Beyond Squid Game - More Korean Sci-fi

Updated: Oct 2, 2023


Lately, there are scads of solid science-fiction/dystopian shows coming out of Asia on Netflix. The first show that caught my attention was Squid Game, a series about a game show for debtors with a deadly twist. Soon, I ran across Alice in Borderland, where Tokyo is transformed from a vibrant metropolis into an arena for bizarre gladiatorial games. If anything, Alice in Borderland is stranger and better than Squid Game, which is saying something.


On a recent plane ride, I watched a couple of excellent science fiction series out of Asia. I was surprised to discover both originated in South Korea. As it happened, I was also reading a sci-fi novel featuring Old Seoul and Neo Seoul. Without intending to, I was neck deep in Korean/Korean inspired science fiction.


 

Black Knight is an excellent, action-packed dystopian yarn. In the near-ish future, the world has been devastated by a catastrophic event. Whatever happened isn't precisely spelled out, but the viewer can surmise that climate change, perhaps sped along by a nuclear exchange, has made life pretty miserable. The air is polluted and breathable air rich with oxygen is a premium.


This being a dystopian series, who do you imagine supplies the breathable air and just about everything else needed to survive? An evil corporation, of course! A corporation powerful enough to challenge the democratically elected government for control of humanity's future.


As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the hell out of this series. The plot is relatively straightforward as dystopian science fiction goes. Still, the series is really well done, with tons of exciting action. The season ends in such a way to be entirely satisfactory. No further seasons are needed. However, there is material for one or two more seasons, easy. Highly recommended.


If I'm not mistaken, Black Knight is based on a web comic that might have the same name. I was made aware of the series by a post on Tor.com.


I decided to give this series spin after reading about it in The Trope Thesaurus as an example of fiction leveraging numerous tropes to create a gripping storyline. I almost didn't finish the first episode. I was turned off by the pseudo-Christian cult featuring prominently throughout the series. Fortunately, I decided to soldier through the first episode.


Hellbound is a yarn of what-ifs. What if a disembodied head appears and prophesies someone is bound for hell? What if the disembodied head gives the precise date and time this will happen? What if the prophecies always come true? What if a cult group rises to power due to the prophecies? What if some people resist the cult?


All in all, this is a series full of surprises. I'm glad I made it through the first episode, and I look forward to the second season.


Rebel Seoul is a sci-fi featuring battlemech style vehicles called god machines, genetically altered super soldiers, and a slow-burn romance set in a near future Seoul. Our hero is a former gangster turned passable high school student and reluctant soldier tortured by his past, which is slowly revealed as the story progresses. At times, I felt the plot unfolded a little too slowly, but fortunately, the numerous science fiction tropes and others are delightfully mashed up to create a great deal of interest in the overarching world. Plus, the hero and the other major characters are largely sympathetic and extremely interesting. These factors kept me reading and inspired me to put the follow-up novel Rogue Heart on my TBR.


Also, Ms. Oh does a beautiful job of instilling a credible sense of Asia into the story. The undercurrent of filial piety, general respect toward elders, compulsory military service, and Korean words used to describe food or in substitution for common phrases give the book an authentic feel.



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