Thursday, June 8, 2017

Reviewing BBC’s SS-GB

First, I’ll say it right off the top: I really enjoyed SS-GB, the five-part adaption of Len Deighton’s classic alternate history novel of the same name.  I'll try to keep this review spoiler-free.

It did happen here
A brief re-cap: the series follows the novel pretty well, touching on all of its salient points.  However, as I’d written earlier, since this is an adaption, some minor points have been changed, which in this context are perfectly acceptable.  The series, as the novel takes place in an alternate November 1941, after the British lost the Battle of Britain and surrendered to Nazi Germany. After Operation Sea Lion, Germany occupies the south and midlands, while leaving the north of the country to its own devices.  The resistance manages to struggle on, bereft of any outside support. 

At this point in this alternate history, Germany and the Soviet Union are still friendly with each other.  As the series opens, a high-level delegation is in London to retrieve the body of Karl Marx for return to Moscow. As in the novel, Winston Churchill has been executed while the ailing King George languishes as a German prisoner.

Enter our main character, Scotland Yard Detective Douglas Archer. Ably played by Sam Riley, Archer tries to maintain a dispassionate but precarious balance in his work, seeing his job as routine a police matter and trying to ignore that his new bosses are the very people occupying his country.  When he is called in to investigate a murder of an antique dealer, the balance Archer has striven to hold onto is sorely tested as he goes deeper and deeper. The people swirling around him come with their own agendas: Sylvia, Archer’s girlfriend and secretary, is working for the resistance and is forced to go underground, while Barbara, the mysterious American reporter he meets and becomes involved with is clearly more than she seems.  Meanwhile, Archer’s German superiors, Kellerman and Huth, clearly have their own endgames, as well.

As I said, with minor and forgivable divergences, and without trying to give away too much, the series follows the novel. The final episode leaves room for a possible follow-on series, which I find intriguing.  My only negative observation was that the sound quality in the first episode tended to be lacking. However, beyond that BBC’s SS-GB is highly recommended and insightful watching, with a subtext that I know, that is far from new, but it is still as relevant today, that war is just as bitter for the winners as for the losers.  

What’s Next:
I’m currently reading the most recent entry in Taylor Anderson’s long-running Destroyermen series, Blood in the Water. As many of you know, financial constraints force me to buy the books I review, so I have to wait in most cases, for the mass-market paperback edition to come out. But in any case, I’ll have my review of Blood in the Water next month.

Meanwhile, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  Thanks.

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