Vesper feels as bleak as its dark dystopian depiction of Earth, in the aftermath of an ecological catastrophe that has left the Earth mostly wiped out. You know, the ones where engineered viruses and the like are let loose into the world creating an ecological disaster. Yet there’s hope, brought to light through its main character, Vesper (Raffiella Chapman), a compassionate and intelligent 13-year-old girl skilled in biohacking. She’s a survivor, abandoned by her mother to care for her sick, incapacitated father. He follows and communicates with her via a floating head shaped drone, displaying an emoji like face, while remaining bedridden in their house deep within the forest. She spends her time scavenging the land for things to trade, energy sources to keep her father breathing, seeds to grow food, and following on in her father’s work, engineering their own food.


The inhabitants in Vesper’s toxic world are divided between the privileged elite, in their tall impenetrable citadels, and the unfortunate others, scavengers who are struggling to survive on what little they can forage from the junk of the past, while eating insects and broths created from fungus and bacterial concoctions. The oligarchs control the seeds, coded to yield only one crop. Their monopoly decides who will have access to them, which depends on what is traded.

The film is uniquely immersive, more so through its visually dystopian grimness, often transforming into a ghostly canvas of some medieval myth reset in a sci-fi dark age. The cinematography composes a limited palette and balanced tonality, begging to be sung as an endless lament to ecological devastation. This echoes as a cautionary tale with impressive emotional depth in classic European art house style. Its imaginative world building, of Earth recreated and coveted on intelligent and bizarre recreations of bioluminescent life forms and gory blood sucking flora. Steeped in surreal landscapes of bleak wastelands of overrun alien vegetation and twisted organisms. Overall, a beautifully crafted film.

Just don’t expect grand visual and narrative storytelling, this is not trying to be a sci-fi blockbuster. Vesper is indicative of culturally European science fiction, more in the tone of Solaris and similar works, but also inheriting the tropes and styles of other modern works of sci-fi. It’s a passion of love, six years in the making, directors/writers Kristina Boyte and Bruno Samper shot the film in Lithuania just as the snow began to thaw, taking advantage of the fairy tale mood of the country and referencing Dutch painters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt as key references to light the environments.

It’s hard to imagine how a young girl can survive the emotional turmoil she has to endure daily in such a morbid world, but she does, finding empathy and strength in her objectives and those she cares for in times where it might be lost. The focus is on Vesper, a gentle heroine who demonstrates the courage and capacity to take care of herself under impossible conditions. It’s her viewpoint of the world we witness and it’s through her eyes we learn how to find hope when all hope is lost.

Station Eleven

For some reason when I first read Emily St. John Mandel’s, “Station Eleven” in 2014, I thought I was going to read a dystopian tale set in the near future with blights, deaths and horrors. Lots of scary end of the world stuff. What I discovered instead was a genuinely unique story centered on a group of nomadic people, which happened to be actors and musicians, known as the Travelling Symphony. They had embraced their predicament with a noble purpose, by keeping the essence of art burning, performing Shakespeare and classical music. It felt almost lyrical. Though there were creepy moments, involving the collapse of civilization due to a pandemic, with crazed survivors and a manic prophet leading a murderous cult. In the end, the book focused on what had been lost, on people’s nostalgia and longing, as well as the determination of art to expand our view of the world and save us from loneliness.

‘I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.’ – Dr Eleven

HBO Max’s “Station Eleven” gives the same vibes. It began filming in early 2020. HBO had ordered the adaptation in June the previous year. A year before the real pandemic began. I can just imagine what the production crew felt working on the series in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are elements, early in the series, where the perspective of the show reflects those real world fears we all experienced when the pandemic broke out. And the wonderful performances only strengthened those emotions.

Having just recently finished the limited series, I must admit I wanted to re-watch the first few (I think it was the first three) of the ten episodes again before moving on to watch the rest. There is a lot of complexity and depth, and re-watching actually helped to magnify the breadth of each episode in the beginning. I don’t recommend binge watching it.

Like the book, the film moves back and forward before and after the events of the pandemic. The episodes themselves will leave major characters by skipping an episode, to focus on introducing new characters, building up emotionally powerful scenes, only to return to them in the next episode.

I particularly loved how the graphic novel, Station Eleven, is recreated in the series. (I would love to find a copy) Here the term ‘Home’ becomes such an important theme in the story, and the graphic novel becomes central to that theme. Challenging us to consider the tragedy when things fall apart, and society ceases to exist. How much does it affect us to be where we are and with who we are? This narrative is explored while the Travelling Symphony moves through its motions and each play becomes an event. As when Shakespeare’s Hamlet is performed, and its plot impacts the narrative to form the intertwining pathway to all these places and people. It’s thrilling to watch.

Station Eleven can be viewed as a surreal journey exploring the past and the future of a society broken in half by a world-shattering event. It has its moments of darkness, but it also balances its scenes with unexpected humor and great performances. As a whole, it feels like a moving play, staged in a world of loss and struggle, which finds solitude when it finally returns home.

‘I remember damage. And escape. Then adrift in a stranger’s galaxy for a long time. But I’m safe now. I found it again. My home.’ – Miranda Carroll

Ode to a Lost Explorer – Free eBook

Finally found some time to format the completed Ode eBook and have uploaded it here on my site for anyone who wants to read it.  You can download it for free and it’s available in both mobi and epub formats.

For more information about the story as well as links to the downloads, click here or on the eBook cover image.

Hope you enjoy it.

Becoming Superman

This is a dark book, with moments of light shedding rays of hope into dark places. People have different thresholds, different limits to how much they can endure. I know I have mine and I know where I would lose all hope. But J. M. Straczynski surpasses all these trials; a terrible childhood of impoverished circumstances and abuse that only shocks the senses.

We witness the struggle as he inches on as a writer of screenplays and comic books, towards his career in Hollywood; from The Twilight Zone and Changeling, to Babylon 5 and onto Netflix originals with Sense 8, and shows us how it’s done with perseverance, courage and determination. He offers essential writing advice throughout his personal story, advice which makes the book indispensable.

The story of becoming superman exceeds any story written before of the superman I’ve grown up to know and admire. J. M. Straczynski’s Becoming Superman is a life tale that goes well beyond the fictional account of Clark Kent and what we’ve come to know of him after he arrives from Krypton. For him, meeting Superman as a child was transformative.

But Straczynski’s biography is both inspirational and horrifying. A young boy raised by damaged adults, who must learn to survive. He finds refuge in comics and imaginary characters, where he discovers a world of superheroes whose special powers give them the ability to overcome their misfortunes. Here he makes a discovery that will change his life, a realization that change comes and can happen to the most unfortunate and emotionally devastated souls. Where Straczynski, a little boy whose story is part darkness and part creation, uncovers his own superpower. The ability to weave stories from the depths of his imagination and break free from within. From here the writer’s journey begins. A journey that takes us on a personal history of discovery, which up till now was veiled in mystery. J. M. Straczynski manages to keep a balance on the horror we discover in the mystery, with humor and intelligence.

My first and most noteworthy meeting of Straczynski’s work was Babylon 5, a story that encompassed a single-story arc across five seasons, a “novel for television”, with a defined beginning, middle, and end; in essence, each episode would be a single “chapter” of this “novel”. This was new territory for television, something we take for granted today with Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime etc., but a great risk for TV in the early 90s. Not only did he take on this immense challenge, Straczynski wrote most of the 110 episodes, as well as the pilot and five television movies. On the journey, he constantly kept his viewers and fans updated online on the fan-run website, The Lurker’s Guide to Babylon 5. And this was in 1993, with the internet in its infancy! Yeh, I was one of the fans who after every episode would dial up the internet to learn more from the lips of our hero, Straczynski, who would post detailed analyses and answer fans’ questions. Oh, and by the way, The Lurker’s Guide is still alive and well today. A historical legacy and testament to what J. M. Straczynski achieved with Babylon 5.

Becoming Superman is a story with controversy and drama, but it never overwhelms you. Instead, it’s a tale of discovery and coming to terms with yourself, of breaking away from your past, no matter how ugly it was. A narrative that chronicles a journey to uncovering your true potential.

Ode to a Lost Explorer – The Singer in the Sea

Some more long overdue chapters are now done.

The Travellers’ journey has taken them to a strange and dangerous place that should not exist.  It is here they hope to find the last part of the missing puzzle to help them escape an uncertain reality.

Several chapters are already available and can be heard from these links below, and the list will grow:



The Galactic Hub

Player FM

I’ve also uploaded audio chapters to My YouTube channel here.

Ode to a Lost Explorer – The Dancer in the Wind

I’ve written a couple of more chapters (20 & 21) to the story, if only to show time is not on my side.  Not that it ever was. The same might apply to the Traveller and his friends.  When they encounter a very old nemesis their dangerous path takes a surprising turn for the worse and they are found wanting.

But I did promise something special was coming.  With the help and wonderful enthusiasm of my friend Donnie Gallagher, Ode to a Lost Explorer can now be heard coming alive as an exciting new audio adaptation.  Several chapters are already available and can be heard from these links below, and the list will grow as the story unfolds:



The Galactic Hub

Player FM

I’ll also be uploading more audio chapters to My YouTube channel here.

Finally, Donnie hosts his own podcast here at Craft Brews and Geek News.  So make sure to check it out.

Lost in Space – Reboot

I feel that I can safely say, I’m excited.  More so than I have been in a long time for an upcoming new series.  On April the 13th Netflix is launching a new reboot of Lost in Space.  One of my very early, favourite childhood shows.

The original Lost in Space series, created and produced by Irwin Allen, ran for three seasons, from 1965 to 1968 on CBS.  Season one was my favourite, starting off on a serious tone with the characters developing over time.  It was also the only one filmed in black and white.  But I never knew that at the time, since our TV set was black and white throughout the entire three seasons.  Maybe another contributing factor as to why I prefer the first season nowadays.

In 1998 we had a film of Lost in Space released in cinemas, with a plot adapted from the 1965–1968 original series.  It debuted at number one at the box office, ending Titanic‘s 15-week-long hold on the first-place position.  However, critics were generally negative towards the darker tone of the film.  I didn’t mind it.

With the new reboot we also get surprising new changes, one is of the robot.  No longer part of the crew, the robot is an alien machine that is discovered by Will Robinson by chance on a distant planet.  Gender unknown and who is playing the robot is also unknown.  We’ll have to wait for the series to start before we find out.  All we have for now is an amazing looking alien machine and the voice of the robot warning of an impeding threat with the original “Danger Will Robinson.”

Most of us who have seen the original series fondly remember the character of Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris).  Whom Bill Mumy, playing the role of Will Robinson, referred to him as “This man we love-to-hate, a snivelling coward who would cower behind the little boy, ‘Oh, the pain! Save me, William!'”

Well, in the reboot, the role of Dr Smith is taking on a gender switch, making Dr Smith a woman.  Parker Posey spoke of her role at WonderCon.  She explained:

“I love the original (series) and I certainly love the original Maureen,” Posey said (via Deadline). “But we live in a different time of gender dynamics.

“The women (on the show) could do whatever the men do – it isn’t even a question. It’s just the reality. It’s incredible to play a woman as smart as she and at the same time, has these flaws and has to connect with her kids.

“It’s 30 years into the future and we have imagined a reality we would like to see. We will hopefully be in a place where we want to be in terms of class, race and gender.”

She added: “When I heard they were going to offer me the part it was really touching for me. I loved that they made her into a woman.

“You’re going to see over 10 episodes how this new Dr Smith evolves.”

Well, I for one will be watching that development closely.

Blade Runner 2049

Honestly, when I first heard they were making a sequel I wasn’t thrilled, but once I learnt Denis Villeneuve was involved, I was curious to see what he would manage to produce.

Having watched his previous film, Arrival—based on the original short story, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang—I felt he had the skill to create an outstanding adaptation. And while listening to an interview, I learnt Denis Villeneuve also happened to be a passionate fan of the original, which was a plus. Of course, I loved the original, for the obvious reasons I reiterated in the Blade Runner review I posted here in the blog. Still, I was skeptical.

I saw Blade Runner way back in the 80s. It was a time when a lot of us were scared and excited about the future. But that was then, and today that future seems partially here. So, while watching 2049 I didn’t share the same emotions I had back then. The foreboding of what was to come, had been replaced with, it’s here, now. Well, somewhat.

Fortunately, after viewing Blade Runner 2049, it turned out to be a splendid sequel, leaving me pleasantly surprised. Denis Villeneuve pays homage to the original, and does so admirably. I can’t wait to see what he does with Dune.

However, some found it to be a long film. And to be truthful, it’s much longer than the original. Two hours and forty-three minutes long to be exact. The original had a running time of under two hours. I didn’t mind the length. It actually gave me ample time to relish in the spectacle, the soundscape and the visually stunning sights, which were staggering. But the film’s length might have accounted for the less than stellar box office performance, possibly hampering a further sequel.

Set 30 years after the original Blade Runner, the earth has waned into a dystopian quagmire. With technology no longer the answer to all our prayers, nor humanities savior from ourselves; but a cold, clinical enslaver.

Due to persistent poverty, only the few—I suppose the rich and powerful—have access to more advanced devices and luxury, and even they seem misplaced from their empathy on a world plagued with mass extinction. Where the distinction between humans and replicants is blurred by a shared ‘quasi-alive’ subsistence. So, in retrospect both films share the same gloomy outlook Philip Dick had for humanity, when he wrote Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep. Exploring what it means to be human and the moral distinctions made between life and simulated-life.

Looking out from ‘K’ Ryan Gosling’s shabby apartment, all one sees is an endless night awash in constant rain against a backdrop of lost hopes. Those hopes play like mirrors in the form of corporation logos and giant holographic images, which tease and tempt at what’s left of our addiction to consumerism.

The film’s soundtrack fails to reach the original’s greatness, one that is often described as mythical, evocative and pristine. But it has its moments of brooding beauty and seismic immersion, and manages moments of subtle ambience. Finally, towards the end, it pays homage to Vangelis’s “Tears in the Rain” with an emotive redux.

As a soundtrack, it’s full of echoes and haunting as hell. Zimmer and Wallfisch did a commendable job, and they were well aware of the fact that it would never match Vangelis’s magnum opus, so they decided not to even try. Though listening to the sweeping suites of “Sea Walls” and “Blade Runner”, one feels they captured ambient elements of the original. And that’s an opinion coming from an amateur soundtrack buff like myself, who also is a huge fan of Vangelis’s work.

The critical response was positive, general consensus calling it an instant classic. Quite an interesting difference in retrospect, if one compares the change of attitudes over the years in relation to the originals initial mixed reactions from film critics of the 80’s.

As a sequel, I would highly recommend it. As does a rewatch, which I intend to do in the not too distant future.