V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

December 12, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment
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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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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore

April 25, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 2 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment
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It’s good for a comic book, but it is unworthy of the pretentious term “graphic novel” and thus quite disappointing to someone like me who cut his teeth on the brilliant Watchmen. Moore is a talented writer but he hasn’t set his sights very high here. It’s a hey-how-about-that sort of story involving characters who, for the most part, will go unrecognized by people interested in hey-how-about-that stories.

Reread: Watchmen by Alan Moore

April 19, 2005 at 12:00 am | Posted in 5 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment
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I had read Watchmen already, but I went back to it after seeing a discussion of it come up in an unrelated conversation. There are to my knowledge only a few recognized auteurs in the graphic novel field, and Moore is the only one I’ve read and Watchmen is the only thing I’ve read of his. Perhaps I should try to find more, because Watchmen is great work. I rated it 4 stars when I first made this site and thought long and hard about that rating. It was always on the top of my list of borderline 5 star material. On the reread I decided to bump it up.

Why is Watchmen so good? It’s unbelievably smart…maybe too smart for its own good. The discussion of it that prompted the reread was on whether it could be considered “fascist” or not, whatever that might mean. The people arguing about it couldn’t even decide which characters were supposed to be considered heroes. This could be considered a weakness, but I view it as a sort of objectivity. Moore lays out the options and lets the reader choose, and the choice he gives is not an easy one.

I don’t have the time to write a spoiler discussion of it, but I suppose I should mention just what Watchmen is about. It’s an attack–I hesitate to use a term I despise, deconstruction–on the superhero myth. The story is set in a sort of alternate history where the first superhero comics in the early part of the century actually convinced certain people to take up “customed vigilantism”. From there, Moore takes a brutal look at the effects of unchecked power on those who wield it and the world they create. I gave it five stars because it is not just full of very smart thinking on these issues, but also very well executed in terms of both dialogue and what passes in the graphic novel format for direction. Recommended without reservations.

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