V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

December 12, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

I actually read this a couple weeks ago but forgot to review it. I hate to cheap out on you like this, but V for Vendetta is the sort of work I can either write something brief or something extremely long and detailed but can’t do any justice to it with something of more typical length. If you haven’t already, I would strongly recommend reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen. If you have and you liked it, then I definitely recommend reading V for Vendetta as well. It is a shade less brilliant than Watchmen and occasionally infuriating, but it is a great piece of fiction. Moore is a great writer.

Having tossed out the recommendation, and not having enough time to properly discuss these issues, I will have to settle for making some assertions that I hope to write more about later. Since the movie is coming out in a few months, you will probably hear a lot about V for Vendetta. Some people see it as a haunting vision, a cautionary tale about fascism that is more relevant today than ever. Forgive me if I disagree. I think Moore gravely misread the overall motion of western culture (mass execution of homosexuals and black people? mmmkay). Additionally, the anarchy proposed and modeled in the book is just another disguised dictatorship, with V as ubermensch giving the people what they are too stupid to want. Meanwhile, nothing that could even be confused with a viable alternative to the story’s straw man fascist state is proposed. Instead, apparently riots and mob rule will somehow sort themselves into the ideal state. Whatever. Finally, much will be made no doubt about how the movie or graphic novel “glorifies terrorism.” I don’t know and don’t particularly care what Moore wanted to glorify, so I won’t analyze whether it is supposed to glorify terrorism, but by any sensible, the main character is a terrorist. Having a brutal, almost nihilist (if you don’t believe the anarchy bit) protagonist battling a thoroughly evil police state means there’s no one you can truly vote for and makes the story a great discussion piece.

Too bad the public discourse these days has sunk to such abysmal levels that no one on either “side” will actually have a rational discussion about these ideas with anyone they disagree with. A big part of Moore’s brilliance as an artist is he can write a gigantic speech in favor of something I find ridiculous and I still love reading it. And for all his eccentricities, he is subtle enough to let the reader come to their own conclusions about the important points. In the past year or two I’ve read political novels of revolution from MacLeod, Mieville, Stross, etc., but this is by far the best.

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