The Boys (on Amazon Prime)

A superhero series with a difference: the superheroes, while being ‘super’, aren’t really ‘heroes’. In this story, this crew of overpaid, self-absorbed, drug-addicted, over-sexed, and to be honest, borderline psychotic meta-humans are run by a global, morally bankrupt corporation who keep the billions rolling in with toys, comic books, movie franchises and some fairly dodgy endorsements (chocolate breakfast cereals?). But the whole scheme begins to unravel when one of the ‘supes’ accidentally kills a bystander …

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

You know, I live in constant fear of coming across a Bernadine Evaristo novel I won’t like. I don’t class myself as a fan, yet I’ve got three of her books on my shelf. I can’t say I’m that keen on poetic prose (probably because I can’t write it), but I love the Emperor’s Babe. And Blonde Roots? Well, that was my favourite book for years, until Silk came along. I think this proves that reading outside your comfort zone often uncover a rare gem. So this the mindset I fixed on when I picked up (by which I mean ‘downloaded’) a copy of Girl, Woman, Other.

This isn’t so much a novel as a collection of intertwined short stories, covering the trials and loves of a group of women linked through ancestry, family and friendship. Some of the women are black, some are mixed-race, and some believe themselves to be white, and discover that perhaps they’re something else entirely. Evaristo doesn’t just touch upon racism, sexism and the nature of sexual identity, she dives in like she’s researching a social history thesis. Some of the concepts are challenging (especially if you’re a bloke), but they’re certainly worth a second read, then a drink, then a think, then another read. Even if you don’t end up agreeing with her on all counts, you’ll certainly come away thinking, ‘Okay, well, when you put it like that …’

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The Genius of Russell T. Davies

I got to it late, but I’ve just finished watching Years and Years, a joint production between the BBC (still a great channel for drama and natural history, even if there news & current affairs coverage has nose-dived recently) and HBO. The story follows a not-so-typical family’s attempts to steer its way through the massive political, social and technological upheavals of a future Britain.

Years and Years

The landscape is huge, covering not just The United Kingdom (or what’s left of it), but future events in Europe and the United States. When you’re trying to build a world as big as this for any story, then it’s easy to get lost in the peripheral details, losing sight of your characters and indeed the story you’re trying to tell. Davies skilfully navigates this using a simple technique favoured by the best science-fiction and fantasy writers: focus on your key characters and let the world grow around them; let the changing world change them.

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