Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire (Akala)

Okay, a confession: I thought about dropping the book, a couple of times. It’s not that it’s not well-written, because it is (one of the best I’ve read actually). It’s not because it isn’t relevant; it’s been relevant for the past three hundred years. No, the problem is that I’ve been reading a lot (and I do mean A LOT) about race over the past year, so when I started Akala’s book, I think I started with a few preconcieved notions about what I was getting into, and for the most part I wasn’t surprised: it’s a brilliantly-researched, honest, opinionated, and occasionally bitter read from someone who’s elevated himself out of a place where white privileged society told him he belonged. I think the problem was that I was expecting the kind of jaw-dropping revelations that Isabel Wilkerson came up with in Caste, and I’m sure that there would’ve been a few, if I’d read this one first.

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Book review: The Bionic Man

Ah, the seventies: flared trousers, flammable nylon, in-your-face racism and school custard with the consistency of skimmed milk. But you know what; it wasn’t all bad, because on Saturday nights (having spend the day bouncing off the walls after Tiswas) we had the Six Million Dollar Man: the story of Steve Austin, astronaut and test pilot, horrifically injured in a plane crash and rebuilt as a cyborg to be better than he was before; better, faster, stron—anyway, even if you don’t remember it I’m sure you get the idea. As entertaining as it was ridiculous, the Six Million Dollar Man ran for five seasons and spawned a reasonably successful spinoff (The Bionic Woman) that ran for another three. It was also the forerunner for just about every cyborg-related super-hero/villain you’ll see today; some we love (Inspector Gadget), and some we hate (The Terminator). Over the years, there’s been talk of a movie revival (I think Will Smith was mooted to play Austin one point), but nothing every came of it.

Well, actually it did: not a movie, but a comic series – and I had no idea. It’s been out for a couple of years, and I only found out when I stumbled across a picture from one of the comics on the interweb:

And on the strength of that, I bought the first omnibus, and I can tell you, it’s been an absolute treat. Kevin Smith (is that the same guy with the baseball cap?) deserves a comic oscar or something for this.

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Devs

My favourite lockdown binge so far, though it’s kind of hard to describe: a cross between Killing Eve and Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus even makes a cameo appearance). It’s funny, inventive, has one of the best deadpan cast of characters I’ve ever seen. (Nick Offerman is pure genius), and the script is a pared-down thing of joy. Devs takes place round about now-ish and is the story of a company that is working to develop the holy grail of computer systems: a quantum machine that can

Yup, a game-changer, and the shady techs behind it will kill employees, foreign spies and just about anyone else to keep it a secret.

Devs is a slow-burner: the set (especially the computer – they’re actually working inside the computer!) is a work of art. The whole piece is quiet, atmospheric with dialogue that works effortlessly around some pretty mind-blowing concepts: probability, quantum computing, multiple universes: they’ve thrown the whole Sci-Fi manual at it, and still managed to keep it compulsive viewing. As I’ve said, it’s a standout performance by Nick Offerman (remember Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation?) as the haunted CEO of the company, wracked with doubts over what he’s trying to do.

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