Retrophisch Review: The Dark Continent

The Dark Continent coverEvoking plot elements from Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Scott Reardon’s The Dark Continent opens with CIA agent Karl Lyons looking for an ultra-black government project gone awry, one he had been a part of but was now on the outs with. The heavily obscured project, Prometheus, has taken a turn for the worse: on an abandoned oil rig off the coast of Alaska, scientists have begun injecting human subjects, and not just any human subjects. These are the worst of the worst: rapists, serial killers, death row inmates. Sound familiar, readers of The Passage?

Yet Reardon has his own twist on what happens to the test subjects, one that comes across as far more believable than Cronin’s vampires, but is just as terrifying. Defying the odds to escape from Chinese imprisonment, Karl joins forces with Tom Reese, the protagonist from Reardon’s first book, The Prometheus Man. I should note that I hadn’t read this first novel before diving in to The Dark Continent, but it was not an issue. Reardon gives enough backstory from the first book sprinkled throughout the second to get you up to speed and keep you engaged. After the test subjects escape, Karl and Tom must enter the heart of darkness the killers have created in middle America to take down the enhanced humans before they end life as we have become accustomed to it.

This was probably not the best choices of books to read during a pandemic and the inherent fears that go along with one, but I could not put it down. It is a “just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should” thriller that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. From the beginning, I was deeply invested in Karl and Tom, and Kronin (a nod to Justin Cronin?) has to be one of the scariest fiction characters since Cormac McCarthy’s Chigurh. Reardon has crafted an engaging, suspenseful story that should make one think while being entertained.

4.5/5 fins, definitely recommended

First impressions of The Passage premiere

  • I was worried about the Wolgast/Amy connection; I’m not worried any more
  • as one expects of book adaptations, there are noticeable changes
  • some of those changes are character-related, and I think I see where it’s going with one, and I approve. With another, I’m not so sure.
  • I think Gosselaar is a good choice for Wolgast; I think Saniyya Sidney is an excellent choice for Amy
  • Jamie McShane as Fanning looks like he’ll be perfect
  • a little too early to make the call on McKinley Belcher as Carter, but I like where it’s going

Nathan told me that he’d read they’re taking this a little more linear than the books do, where the timeline jumps back and forth between the past (and multiple characters’ pasts) and the present (and multiple characters’ presents). I think that will be a benefit. Author Justin Cronin is listed as an executive producer. I’m really hoping that means he has real input and it’s not just an honorific. The Passage trilogy is epic dystopian myth-making. I’m actually considering stopping all other reading to pick up the first book again.

There’s also a strong adoption theme to the Wolgast/Amy relationship.

I generally give a new show five episodes to keep me as a viewer. Given I read the background material for this one, I’m likely already in. I’m anxiously awaiting the next episode.