Have been reading lots since my last post, maybe should remember to post stuff as I go along rather than wait until I need another 2000 word entry to catch-up…
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, illustrated by David Lloyd. This is the original graphic novel from which the recent movie was made. Alan Moore has a traditionally bad relationship with ‘Hollywood’. In part this is because there have been some poor adaptations of his incredible works, and in my opinion partly because he doesn’t make enough allowances for the different medium, celluloid as opposed to sequential art, and the sometimes necessary change of pace required to sustain interest. Now I’m not going to defend film-makers dumbing down stories to make blockbusters, or making unnecessary changes to ‘improve’ the script (Mr Jackson, take note, Tolkien’s books didn’t need that much re-writing!). That said I think the movie version of V for Vendetta was a very creditable take on the original comic. This is a great story, inspired by the harsh politics of the 1980’s with a dash of the all too believable aspects of Orwell’s 1984. Put a ‘revolutionary’ modelling himself on Guy Fawkes into this mix and assorted in-fighting, back-stabbing, self-serving senior government figures and you have a great recipe for the political thriller + revenge tragedy + love story (their’s a naif too – a girl representing us the audience being awakened to the corruption of government by V the ‘hero’).
Graphic Novel or film, this is a great story. David Lloyd’s art is clever, not my style, but it works very well with the story and adds to the Orwellian imagery of the novel that the movie draws on less.
If you can’t bring yourself to read a ‘comic’ (shame on you) then rent the movie.
The Confusion by Neal Stephenson is a long book. More than that it’s the middle part of a trilogy consisting three long books making for one massive story arc. Don’t think I wrote about the first part (Quicksilver) after I had read it, maybe I was too exhausted! The thing about Stephenson is that his reputation was originally in Science Fiction, I started reading him with ‘Snowcrash’ and ‘The Diamond Age’, but in progressing to read ‘Cryptonomicon’ [his best work by far IMHO] I realised that he had moved into a genre where he writes fiction that includes a lot of science, but that his books were now not what hardcore Sci-Fi fans would necessarily expect.
So it is with The Confusion, or rather with ‘The Baroque Cycle’ of which this is the central part. He has written an enormous fiction based on a lot of historical fact and specifically the history of development, scientific, economic, political, etc. across Europe primarily – although the Americas do feature to a degree.
I love thick books, I love the sense of anticipation about how immersed you can become in reading a story that you know will take many days to finish, weeks even if you are rationed by circumstances. You inhabit the worlds and experience the events for much longer and consequently they stay with you for much longer too, these stories are generally more easily recalled than shorter novels. Of course this relies on the books being enthralling, the plot gripping you and pulling you along, the characters intriuging you too. Stephenson has lots of these things, this is a really good book, so was Quicksilver. But there is something not quite perfect about them. I actually found myself wanting the book to end, so I could move on and read something else. I think it’s just too big a canvas… Whilst he illuminates dozens of fascinating developments linked by a believable narrative, there is to my taste not enough of the page-turner about the plot. At certain places I found myself engrossed and unable to stop reading until a passage of action concluded or a plot twist was revealed, but for all those instances there were similar times when I felt I was reading out of duty, sort of convincing myself it was worth sticking with (it is really, it just doesn’t always feel like that).
I suspect also that it is all the more enjoyable if you have a good vocabulary of historical figures, kings, politicians, scientists, artists, writers, inventors, economists, etc. I feel I have a much better understanding of many of the origins of things we take for granted now, like currency and banking, but I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it even more if I’d been able to spot all of the cast and the events and understood their place in history more fully.