Mary's Take: Babylon Berlin
I’ve got to start this one by telling you a little secret: I watched the TV show first. I KNOW. I’m a terrible reader, how DARE I! But also, I had no idea it was a book series until a few episodes into the show, when I actually started paying attention to the credits and noticed that it said, “Based on the best-selling novels by Volker Kutscher”. Ohhhhhhhhh. Maybe I should read these books! So I did, but this review is in two parts (mixed together with the processor that my brain is). On the one hand is the mega-budget best internationally rated German TV series, and on the other hand is the book series.
So, what is it? Babylon Berlin (both the books and the TV show) is set in inter-war Germany during a period known as the Weimar Republic. I’m going to include a lot of links here, because this series plays upon my love of history, and if you don’t know about the Weimar era in Berlin, you are missing out on Germany’s sexiest period. In the Berlin of this era, sex clubs, cross-dressing, women in the workforce, post-war angst, pre-war angst, and international intrigue are all crashing against each other to create a tumultuous and rich backdrop for character development. In fact, I almost feel like you could just put two cardboard cutouts in the middle of fictionalized Weimar Berlin and their story would be fascinating.
Gereon Rath, provincial Vice Squad investigator newly arrived to the pit of conspiracy that is 1920’s Berlin, is investigating your average run-of-the-mill vice crime: illegal porn productions, drug trade, and mafia murders to name a few. He befriends good and bad people (I can’t tell you who is who or it will ruin the fun), and falls into the creation of history. You see, my favorite thing about the Babylon Berlin plot, is that while it seems to be a murder/mystery it is actually a history explaining to you the radicalization of normal people into militant communists and xenophobic fascists and tries to show how Nazi Germany became Nazi Germany.
Now, here’s where things get tricky: I like the show more than the book. AGH! Traitorous heart! But there are a few reasons why: Weimar Berlin is an aesthetic landscape. It isn’t something that is easily described in words, but takes hauntingly beautiful shape on screen. Additionally I feel that the book almost falls too far into the trap of being historically and technically accurate. Sometimes the plot gets so mired down in the minutia of crime analysis that I find myself longing for the show. Additionally, the women of the book are more fleshed out on-screen, but of course if you want my honest review…check out my Goodreads.
And for God’s sake watch the show! (Trailer below).
Now for my Five Word Review for Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher:
Damn, Gereon is inexplicably sexy.