Reviews

Titan attacking a city
Image credit: Deviant Art

Attack on Titan and The Attack on Shonen Global Dominance

If you think watching vicious man-eating titans trying to eliminate humanity is something that would be too violent to ever become mainstream, you’d be very wrong. For those of you who need a recap, Attack on Titan is an anime and manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama. The story is set in a world where humanity is confined inside cities surrounded by huge walls, which protect them from massive man-eating Titans. The story is spearheaded by the protagonist Eren Yeager, who vows to exterminate the Titans after a Titan decimates his hometown and eats his mother in front of him (Yikes).

Anime is a niche form of entertainment for Japanese animated shows, with genres ranging from drama, action, romance, fantasy, historical fiction and many more. AOT (Attack on Titan) in particular is a Seinen. Translating to “youth”, it’s a more mature genre, which can include gorey battles and complex themes. That AOT is becoming mainstream despite its genre just highlights the anticipation that season 4 holds.

After the tragic events of the Shinganshima attack which saw Titans break through the walls and destroy Eren’s hometown we flash forward 2 years to see the trio of friends Armin, Mikasa and Eren faced with a new enemy nation in Marley! These crazy events that lead to season 4 includes memory alternating, betrayal and blurred lines between good and bad guys.

My only critique of the show is that I feel the pacing of season 4 is too fast, we have so much content to explore from the manga, but a limited number of episodes. However, I suppose wanting more episodes is always a good sign of a great show.  Some of the brilliance showcased in season 4 can be attributed to character development, Armin starts off as a weak frightened character with a prodigy level intellect. Armin, in season 4, displays grit, determination and guts. He does so in ‘blazing’ fashion (if you’ve seen the anime, you’ll understand), casting his fears aside to help secure a crucial victory for humanity.

Eren in season 4 is a polarising figure, he takes a brutal approach to achieve his ideals, love it or hate it Eren Yeager is stealing the show. Season 4 is the Eren show and I love it. His actions are justified and plausible through foreshadowing; it doesn’t feel forced and he feels like a credible anti-hero. That is encapsulated with this line he delivers from season 4, “The people who push themselves into hell see a different hell from the rest of us. They also see something beyond that hell.”

Hajime Isayama stated in an interview that his original ending would involve killing every main character. However, he also said he felt this ending would be ‘irresponsible’ so if you’re a team Levi or Team Eren, there is hope yet. If you’re not convinced to watch this masterpiece you can’t refute the numbers, Attack on Titan only has 33 manga volumes and is still the 25th best-selling manga ever, compared with number 1, One Piece which has a staggering 97 volumes.  Had Attack on Titan  been longer it may be the best-selling manga ever. Finally, as Eren Jeager says, “Nothing can suppress a human’s curiosity” so go give Attack on Titan a watch.

Two Formula 1 pilots shaking hands
Image credit: Netflix Press, Director: Martin Webb, Production Company: Netflix

Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive Season 3 – Entertaining but Incomplete

Drive to Survive is back for its third season. For the first time ever DtS boasts that it follows all ten teams and all twenty drivers in Formula 1. This year the show begins with pre-season testing, before moving onto the highly anticipated first race of the season; the Australian grand prix – which does get cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. 

Thankfully for all those who are bored of the C-word, Drive To Survive only briefly mentions the repercussions of the pandemic, allowing us a glimpse into the world of team principals as the audience becomes a ‘fly on the wall’ in a zoom call with team principals at Williams, Red Bull and Renault. The revised 2020 season seems to be quickly arranged with one brief phone call between Liberty CEO Chase Carey to McLaren boss Zak Brown, before going racing once more. 

Early episodes of DtS covers the early controversy regarding Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’. An interesting move for a show that attracts new followers to the sport and demonstrates the confusing rules which sometimes do or do not exist. Alongside this, F1 fans who regularly tune in to watch the races on their television screens each weekend will no doubt notice the copy and pasting of radio messages into the action to suit the storyline. Nobody pushes hard in pre-season testing. 

Would it be Formula 1 if Red Bull wasn’t once again crucifying their second driver? This year unlucky victim is Alexander Albon. DtS follows the rumour mill of who is likely to take his place. Spoiler alert, it’s not Frenchman Pierre Gasly who was replaced mid-season by Albon in 2019 when he was under performing. Netflix spared viewers the pain of a black square stating that Alex will not be racing in the 2021 season.

Aussie favourite Daniel Riccardo makes a return throughout the series, following him on another departure from another team, this time Renault. We’re left wondering if Cyril Abiteboul is capable of compartmentalising his feelings at all as he fails to cope with the heartbreak.

The series again follows Haas and team principal Gunther Steiner as they battle against financial struggles of being a small team in F1. They need funding and the only answer seems to be replacing both current drivers with rookies for the 2021 season. Whilst such a heavy presence is made by Haas in the series, there is no reportage regarding controversial 2021 Haas driver Nikita Mazepin. Perhaps Netflix is saving that drama for 2021?

As anticipated Romain Grosjean’s crash is covered. DtS expertly captures the mood both in and out of the paddock at the time of the event. This is likely to be the first time a sporting moment as harrowing as this has been treated with such respect and humility in a documentary. 

The final few races seem to be glossed over including George Russell’s replacement of Lewis Hamilton in the second Bahrain race, despite a heavy Williams presence in the second season. But arguably the oddest part of the series is the lack of coverage regarding the We Race As One and the Black Lives Matter movements which featured regularly at each race. Instead, it is left to Lewis Hamilton, alone, in the final five minutes of the final episode. 

For a community that waited over 200 days for a race due to a global pandemic, DtS is a welcome fix of content, but like the sport itself, it is not without its faults. Ten episodes work when you’re only following a small number of drivers and teams but as witnessed by the over-dramatisation, the events that remain untold and the drivers who lack screen time, Netflix may have bitten off more than they could chew this time around. 

Produced by: Box to Box Productions

As seen on: Netflix

The Vanishing Half book cover

The Vanishing Half – An Invitation to Examine Black History

Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half is one of the most intense novels I have read, one which honours the traditions of passing literature. As we weave through Bennet’s exceptional omniscient narration, we witness our characters through their younger years until the ages of discovering grey hairs. Desiree Vignes and Stella Vignes, identical twins and complexions of the lightest shade of black. The twins ran away together at 16 from their single mother, who lost the father of her kids when he was lynched, to live a better life away from Mallard. Their lives “split as evenly as their shared egg” when Stella disappears from Desiree in New Orleans with Blake, her boss. Stella passes as a white person, living the rest of her life in fear of her black identity being discovered. With her childhood trauma and seduced by white privilege, Stella is swayed from returning.

While the novel exhibits deep-rooted and painful subjects, such as racism, sexual and domestic abuse, Bennet delicately incorporates a sense of serenity and thrilling drag moments, uplifting the spirit of the book. We recognise colourism within Mallard, where the twins grew up when Desiree returns with “a child that black”. A place non-existent on maps, small and only occupied by those who “refused to be treated as Negroes.” 

As the story continued, I felt that Bennet articulated her plot proficiently in that though both twins live separate lives, broken and shallow, they unite through their daughters, Jude and Kennedy, whose lives we also follow. What happens to be one of my favourite sections of the novel, is also where I praise Bennet for her literature; she elegantly solidifies the relationship between the lovely Jude and her boyfriend Reese. From Jude respecting Reese’s limits and boundaries to the secrets they have between each other, we witness an intimacy that has been absent or stripped from the other characters. Not only did I feel like Bennet delivered with portraying the damage and trauma Black people endure, but also the trans and gay communities.

Stella’s meticulous efforts of maintaining her false identity become so personal that she rebukes the black family that moves in across from her. Through the danger that Stella fears, being discovered as a black woman, we recognise the security and dignity that black people are not afforded – even in contemporary society. Though The Vanishing Half takes place during 1950-1990’s, it reflects on the progression of the black and LGBTQ community today. The transformation of drag queens and characters who represented rootlessness and the need for true companionship, intensified and disseminated the urgency of Stella’s performance of ‘passing’. 

I sat smiling and sobbing whilst I read this book as I felt every part of the novel satisfied my expectations, despite Stella’s fate; it only urged me to consider the harsh realities of this world. Overall, Brit Bennet generously coheres racial and sexual identity with 21st-century wittiness, which brings me to say that this book will be a great read specifically to those who have a particular interest in racial politics. It is an eye-opening novel that forces readers, to question and appreciate their positions in society.

Author: Brit Bennet.

Published by: Dialogue Books.

Mars Corp Podcast Cover

Mars Corp: An Out of this World Response

I listened to the first episode of a podcast called Mars Corp. It’s quite interesting how it draws you into the action with the beginning starting off with some fancy sound effects that create an ambience that sets you at the centre of the scene. The story is based on a new recruit starting a job on Mars that is working for a company terraforming the planet so that it can be inhabited by humans. Throughout the entire first episode, there is a graphic representation of each of the characters that is entertaining to listen to and gets your imagination going.

I rate the show rather highly as I found it pleasant to listen to and engaging in a way that would make you want to take the time to listen to more episodes. It would be helpful to plug into whilst travelling as you can easily switch off as you listen to it and the next thing you know thirty minutes have passed. Looking at the length of the episode I felt that it was long enough to hold your attention and not too long that it becomes cumbersome.

There are some elements to the story that I found most intriguing as it focuses on the office environment on a foreign planet. There is a scene in the episode that draws your attention in when it’s mentioned that suicide is illegal because it would be damaging company property. The scene makes it interesting as you would expect there would be an element of hope that would come with colonising a new planet, however it looks like the workers are more enslaved rather than liberated in their new roles.

Focusing on the artwork for the thumbnail it sets the scene with an astronaut with a tie and coffee mug in his hand that makes you wonder what life will be like for you if you ever find yourself accepting a new job on a foreign planet.

After listening to it, I have developed a sense of normality with the idea of working in space and it has put into perspective the vision that no matter how far-flung mankind ends up exploring they will always maintain their human traits. With the tag line ‘definitely human’ there is comfort in listening to something so far out of this world that remains so close to home where you find yourself enthralled by the journey of the main character E.L. Hobbs as she starts her new job.

When I stumbled across the podcast, I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular and I found this a pleasant treat from the mostly generic interview-based podcasts out there and it’s also free so you can enjoy it at zero cost. Try listening to it on your way to work then maybe your commute won’t seem so long after all.

Written by: Tom Dalling, David Knight, and David Price

Produced by: Definitely Human

Image credit: Inkyard Press

One of the Good Ones – Honouring Black Lives the Right Way

Articulate. Nice kid. Star student. Human.

Sister-author duo Maika and Maritza Moulite return with a poignant and honest exploration of police brutality, sisterhood and history in their crime novel One of the Good Ones.

It tells the story of teen activist and rising YouTube star Kezi Smith who mysteriously dies after attending a social justice rally. As the news of Kezi’s death spreads, she is immortalised as a model student with a promising future and deemed, quote, ‘one of the good ones’. To honour their sister, Happi and Genni venture to complete Kezi’s passion project of a road trip mapped out using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book. 

One of the Good Ones is told through multiple perspectives and shifts from present-day Los Angeles, California, to the late 1960s, where we trace the Smith family in the deep South. In both periods, the novel thrusts black history to the forefront by focalising The Negro Motorist Green Book, an annual guidebook for black travellers during Jim Crow Law. The Green book features in the novel not only as a guide for Happi and Genni’s trip but also spotlights the unchanged attitudes to racial injustice. 

The Moulite sisters began writing One of the Good Ones in 2018 and were working on it when Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were killed. As soon as I found this out, I reached out to them and asked why they decided to write a story about commemorating a loved one. ‘We end up knowing their names.’, Maika told me, ‘but these people are more than hashtags. They are human beings who are missed’. The phrase ‘one of the good ones’ refers to the black lives we accept. The ‘well-behaved’ ones whose perfect track record prove stereotypes wrong. However, Maika and Maritza seek to point out the fact that no one should have to prove their worthiness of life. 

The patchwork of viewpoints weave in and out of each other, and I loved when different narrators came in contact by chance. Whilst reading, I was in awe of the writing style. The moment you think you know what will happen next, the story changes gears and makes you do a double-take. At times, it was a challenge to hone in on some of the novel’s issues, particularly the discussion surrounding Kezi’s homosexuality. I would have liked to see the LGBTQIA element fleshed out a little more, as it would have been interesting to see how Kezi’s choices conflict with her faith.

It’s not very often I sit down to read a book and gape, laugh and cry as I turn from page to page, but I know that when this is the case, I have come across a powerful piece of writing. One of the Good Ones is a multi-layered book with a twist that will have you stunned. The themes of systemic racism, justice, and police brutality open the door to important conversations in the fight for black lives. Maika and Maritza probe us to consider what true allyship looks like whilst questioning what makes us worthy. Overall, this book is for anyone wanting to educate themselves on black issues. It’s for the sisters and the ‘sistahs‘ in search of an illustration of black womanhood, but most of all, it’s for those who may never be recognised as ‘one of the good ones’. 

Authors: Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Published by: Inkyard Press

Wanda and Vision in their living room
Image Credit: DMED Disney Media

WandaVision: Marvel Taking a Step in a Good Direction

WandaVision is an on-screen adaptation of a series of comic books and graphic novels under the Marvel brand. The show focuses around the characters of Wanda – the Scarlet Witch, and Vision – a robotic AI, who are both well established characters within Marvel Cinematic Universe. WandaVision explores over its short season some of the most interesting comic storylines for the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – the two characters have been shown as romantic interest within the MCU, and this show expands on that premise.

WandaVision infuses a mix of source material with a hearty dose of original storylines. The show may be considered a ‘slow-burner’ by many due to the distinctly different tone of the first couple of episodes, which almost entirely follow the classic stylings of American sitcoms from the 50’s (even matching the black and white shows of the time) and 60’s. This theme does continue throughout the series with many of the episodes shifting in style to match the style of American sitcom from whatever era they are replicating within the episode, something that is very impressive to see play out visually as it creates a divided viewing experience from episode to episode unlike any seen before. 

WandaVision incorporates stories such as Scarlet Witch’s origin story showing her powers and her capabilities in a new light than that which was previously shown, and the creation and introduction of White Vision, the hollow figure of a once compassionate and loving creation. The show explores these characters while blending the narrative with interesting comic storylines for the new additions as well, as both the villain Agatha Harkness and the children of the protagonist, Billy and Tommy, better known in the comics as young avengers Wiccan and Speed, get introduced in a way that doesn’t feel like an origin story within a show, but rather a natural progression of the show’s storying. The blending of these elements turns WandaVision into a compelling first season of television.

The penultimate episode of the show could easily be seen as the most captivating of the whole series, containing what could be viewed as the most emotive and meaningful content featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it debuted in 2008. Here we see a sense of depth that is often overlooked in comic book movies, which have a tendency to prioritise action over genuine character development. Episode 8 instead delivers a heartbreaking take on Wanda’s struggles with mental health. As the viewers, we take a deep dive into her repressed memories of those who she has loved and lost, allowing for a greater understanding of the character than had been given in her previous on-screen appearances.

The show ends in a typical cliché, where the hero saves the day but has to sacrifice everything that they care about in order to do so. This is a staple ending in comic books, so the lack of a subversive conclusion is not a surprise and is likely welcomed by many. It would have been nice to see the studio attempt something different to this formulaic finale, but despite this the show maintains its status as the most creative and differential work created by Marvel Studios.

Produced by: Marvel Studios

As Seen on: DisneyPlus

Bloom with fiery eyes
Image credit: Netflix Press, Director: Brian Young, Production Company: Netflix

Fate: The Winx Saga and the Transformation From Magic to Mundane

Moon Prism Power! Guardians unite! Winx! The magical girl concept is a blast from the past, so when Netflix announced they were going to do a live-action adaptation of the 2004 Nickelodeon show Winx Club, now called Fate: The Winx Saga, it was met with warm nostalgia but also high expectations. Sadly, instead of the colourful adventures and magical friendships that the original cartoon show became known for, Netflix copy and pasted the darker themes and colour palettes from Riverdale and Teen Wolf and called it a day.

In Nickelodeon’s Winx Club, the story follows Bloom who, upon discovering that she possesses the power of the dragon fire, moves to the Magix dimension to attend Alfea, the magic school for fairies. Bloom goes on to meet her friends, forming the Winx club, while also venturing out to discover her past and the origin of her powers. The show is iconic for its diverse cast, heart-warming friendships, and colourful fashion.

Needless to say, I grew up watching Winx Club, so the news of a live-action adaptation was for me a delight mixed with horror. Upon watching the show and noticing the more drastic changes that Netflix made, including the exclusion of Flora and Tecna, in addition to changing some of the original girls’ powers, I made an effort to accept that after all, it is an adaptation, so changes are bound to be made. However, when watching the six one-hour long episodes, I couldn’t shake the bitter realization that the show felt lacklustre. Nostalgia or not, Fate didn’t live up to its potential.

In comparison, the Netflix adaptation, despite following a similar storyline, includes the addition of zombie-monsters and a mystery surrounding them and Bloom. Fate also features more mature content such as sex, drugs, violence, and the occasional gore, which makes it unavoidable to notice how the fun and exciting atmosphere of the original show has been replaced by an edgier tone, accompanied by the 16+ rating.

To Fate’s credit, the pacing was acceptable. The dark academia vibe was suited to the tone they went with, and despite info-dumping and awkward dialogue the show managed to keep the suspense with intriguing cliff-hangers.

However, when you have a setting of multiple magic dimensions including what Fate calls the “Otherworld”, I think it becomes a clear example of the efforts that went into the worldbuilding with fairies from other planets using Earth’s Instagram and the pop culture references all Earth related. The first episode where Bloom’s father retorts to her reference to Lord of the Flies with “Ladies of the Flies, sweetie. Don’t be sexist” accurately depicts the fake wokeness that lingers throughout the show and that seems to have infested Netflix screenwriting room. In addition to the astonishingly few occasions of magic display, hinting at the studio’s minimal special effects budget, the show’s “plot twist” in the final episode was undermined by underwhelming character development, rendering the catharsis of the moment mediocre. It was just too little, too late.

Overall, if you enjoy darker storylines and aren’t too picky about special effects, then Fate: The Winx Saga might be an enjoyable watch. However, if you want a show full of magic, adventure and better character development, then shout Winx! and watch this adaptation transform back into the lovely Winx Club.

Series Showrunner: Brian Young

As seen on: Netflix

Islands of Abandonment book cover
Image credit: Matthew Chant

Islands of Abandonment – Exploring Some of the Many Places Left Behind

All good things may have to come to an end but that doesn’t mean that a flower can’t sprout through the ashes of a burned city. Cal Flyn’s non-fiction masterpiece explores this rebirth of nature through twelve sights of ecological change. I messaged Flyn who hails from the Highlands of Scotland to ask how she managed to find all of these abandoned places and she informed me that it took a great deal of research, reading about the ecological process and weighing up what places would suit her writing the best.

Flyn separates her collection of essays into 4 sections; the first being delves into four places; West Lothian in Scotland, The Buffer Zone in Cyprus, Harju in Estonia and ending the section with the famous nuclear disaster of Chernobyl in Ukraine. She walks through Chernobyl witnessing the effects humans have on our planet and what happens when things go wrong. I was moved by her captivating language as I am reminded the destructive effects humans have on our planet.

Part Two focuses on two areas of the United States, the first being the eerily deserted city of Detroit, in which the population has plummeted from the millions to hundreds of thousands. Flyn observes the empty roads of abandoned houses. In the same section she visits Paterson, New Jersey that, like Detroit, had a big industrial change that damaged the fabric of the local society.

Flyn explores another four places in Part Three of her collection. These are Arthur Kill in Staten Island, Zone Rouge in France, Rose Cottage on the island of Swona in Scotland and Amani in Tanzania. Amani is an abandoned ecological research facility. Flyn told me that she knew she “wanted to write about invasive species and novel ecosystems, so I had to find an abandoned plantation, physical garden or botanical garden that fit the bill. Amani ticked all the boxes.”

Part Four, Endgame, explores the last two destinations for Flyn: Plymouth in Monserrat and the Salton Sea in California. The latter is a relic of times past, from a flood to a tourist destination to now a simmering pool of harsh chemicals and poisons. Flyn stays in a hostel, as she sees some of the outcasts of society. It is a powerful essay to end on, one in which the culmination of the effects we have had on the world is shown.

Islands of Abandonment is the perfect example for seeing the beauty in the rubble that we left behind from our failed visions. As a society, we need to come together to alleviate the pressure humans are putting on the Earth and that as Flyn herself says “all is not lost”, we just have to make a change. Flyn’s poetic writing style perfectly ties into her factual accounts of the journeys she’s taken to bring us this beautiful work of literature. Overall, Flyn’s work is truly sensational and a must read for anyone interested in the effects we are having on our world, and it doesn’t hurt that she herself is a kind enough person to answer my inexperienced questions!

Author: Cal Flyn

Published by: Harper Collins

Screenshot of WEBTOON's home page.

Wonderous World of WEBTOON: Why Webtoons Should Be on Your Next Reading List

Combine the web with cartoons and there you have it: Webtoons. If you’re a fan of comics, mangas or stories in general, Webtoon has something for everyone. Originating from South Korea, manhwa or webtoons surged due to their easy accessibility; our smartphones. Now, Line Webtoon or Webtoon is a webtoon publishing platform, home to thousands of stories from creators/artist around the globe.

Accessed through their global website or via their app, the platform partners with creators to publish original content or host other series on its self-publishing site called Canvas. The webtoon comics function as a serialised novel with one or two episodes released per week. Users are notified via their email or notification, if they’ve subscribed to their favourites, so they’ll always be updated.

Compared to manga and online comics, webtoons differ slightly in its execution. Since webtoons are rarely published in a physical format, so avoiding expensive printing costs, they are likely to be in colour which makes for a more immersive reading experience. Additionally, webtoons utilise their digital format by sometimes featuring music and/or animation that play during certain chapters, allowing creativity and variety.

Now the fun part: My webtoon recommendations!

Gourmet Hound | Drama | Completed Series

Leehama creates a heart-warming and soul-filling story, fit for all ages.

Lucy Fuji, with her uncanny sense of taste and smell discovers that her favourite restaurant (Dimanche) has changed their kitchen staff. After a lucky encounter with two former chefs, she decides to track down Dimanche’s former employees, a journey that seeks to find the ‘taste’ of the unknown chef as both good and bad memories that led to their separation starts to unravel. 

A delicious read! All the characters are well fleshed out, even their names are after various kinds of food. I adored how every chapter contains a little food/dish description that connects to the chapter titles.

Sweet Home | Thriller (Disclaimer: Sensitive topics) | Completed Series

When the world gets flipped over by the invasion of monsters, would a troubled 18-year-old Hyun Cha, be able to survive till the very end?

Carnby and Youngchan, masters of ingenious suspense, create this world where an individual’s hidden desires manifest as human killing monsters while their minds enter a fake façade of a never-ending happiness. This webtoon is sure to keep you stunned and constantly on your heels with its commendable character development, persistent cliff-hanger, satisfactory plot twist and its most heartfelt ending. A must read! 

The Strongest Florist | Action | Ongoing Series

Created by Hyun Hoo Joo and Kumtata, a light read about Jaeho, who dreams nothing more than owning a flower shop. But with his overbearing father pushing him to become an MMA fighter, Jaeho enters a virtual reality game (called New World) where he might just be able to become a florist. The subversion of character expectation will undoubtably leave you marvelling, along with some occasional chuckles, truly a fun read.  

Overall, Webtoons are a pleasant gateway to a world full of possibilities. They allow their creators immense creative freedom by not just focusing on how a story is delivered but also what they would like their readers to experience while reading it. Because of their quick and short format, they’re perfect if you’d like to recharge at the end of an exhausting day. Therefore, why not give it a go?

Composite credit: Josefina Gurung
The Dancing face book cover
Image credit: Sabrina Schioppa

The Dancing Face and the Mission to Correct Historic Bias in British Publishing

One of the best books I’ve read this year is by Mike Phillips. He is a British writer and broadcast journalist. In 1991 he won the Silver Dagger Award by the Crime Writer’s Association for The Late Candidate, in 1996 he won the Arts Foundation Award for Thriller Writing and in 2007 he became an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List. Phillips graces the literary world this year with the republication of The Dancing Face, firstly published in 1997.

An engaging thriller, it is set in the London of the 90s and follows the story of two brothers, Gus and Danny, a Nigerian exile, Okgibo, and the clever Justine. Gus, with the help of two lowlifes, steals the ‘Dancing Face’, an inestimable Benin Mask, from the British Museum, in an attempt to gain an avalanche of attention regarding the British Empire’s thefts in Africa. At that point many characters come into play as they all have an interest for the mask – the millionaire Okgibo, the hopeful Justine, the mercenary Rodney and, finally, Gus’s brother Danny. The introduction is written by the amazing Bernardine Evaristo – she curated with her publisher, Hamish Hamilton, a new series called Black Britain: Writing Back which aim is to “correct historic bias in British publishing and bring a wealth of lost writing back into circulation” (p.vii). The Dancing Face is part of this series thanks to its preoccupation with Black culture being appropriated by the British.

I loved the way the character’s past is extremely relevant to the story – as soon as I got to know them better, I was inclined to understand their present actions rather than judge them. This point was brought up by Phillips himself in a recent interview I had with him – the importance of the past. However, the book has a lovely open ending which makes the reader miss the characters and, at the same time, leaves them satisfied with the story. When I asked him where he thinks his characters ended up after the book ended, he said that their future should be open and mysterious as it is in real life.

Regarding personal backgrounds, it is notable that the image of women is often related to sexual concepts and situations – when I confronted him with the subject, Phillips said that he would not want people to feel like he is sexualising women in his book, rather that the sexualisation is a product of the characters’ background, not the author’s. So, once again, the past plays a huge role. His book is for everyone to read and enjoy. This answer satisfied me greatly – as a feminist, I was taken aback from the objectification in the book. It is soothing to know that it is put in a context of personal background for each character rather than the whole hue of the book.

In conclusion, The Dancing Face is a book I highly recommend for everyone with interest in African culture and thrillers. It raises questions which we are not used to ask ourselves and situations with which we may be not familiar. The way the book never judges the character’s actions and doesn’t give a philosophical explanation of good and bad is comforting. Overall, a great read.

Author: Mike Phillips

Published by: Penguin Random House