Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Looking to the Stars - V For Vendetta: The Novel - A Review

So the other day, I got an instant message from my friend Melissa. She asked me if I had a copy of V for Vendetta. Oddly enough, I didn’t.

Oh, I knew of the book, certainly. I’m a big fan of Alan Moore and had always intended to read the book someday. But it was on that list of classics I intended to get to as soon as I actually had some more spare time to do some serious heavy reading. This is, it might be noted, the same reason I have yet to get around to finishing up the complete works of Poe, Swift and Twain.

This lets you know my regard for Alan Moore; I group him in such distinguished company. Well, distinguished to my mind anyway. I’m not sure how he’d feel about it.

At any rate, Melissa reminded me that the film adaptation of V for Vendetta was coming out fairly soon and expressed a desire to read the book before seeing the movie. I admitted that I would like to do the same. Arrangements were made for me to pick her up a copy (seeing as how I’m all connected in the local comic shops) and I wound up picking up a copy for myself as well.

So, what did I think of this long ignored classic?

Let me put it to you this way: the day I got it, I stayed up until 3 AM taking in every panel, reading and rereading every line and just generally devouring this novel. It is that compelling. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that this piece is better than the more famous Alan Moore dystopian tale: Watchmen.

I will not discuss the plot in great detail. If you have seen the trailers and posters for the movie, you probably have the basic gist anyway. And if you haven’t seen those yet, my telling you the plot would rob you of much of the joy of reading this book. And make no mistake, you SHOULD read this book before you see the movie, or maybe even after.

Briefly, the story takes place in “the future” of 1997. Fascism grips the nation and the only hope for freedom in this Brave New World is the vigilante known only as “V”. We are introduced to V and V’s world through Evey Hammond; a young factory worker saved from a gruesome end at the hands the modern Gestapo.

Through Evey’s eyes, we see V as he fights against a corrupt and oppressive government. A government with total control of the media, which rules through unrestricted spying on the citizens they claim to be protecting, as well as through mass repression of racial minorities, liberals, and homosexuals.

Well, this WAS science fiction back in 1981 when Moore started writing it…

In all seriousness, Moore wrote this as a cautionary tale which unintentionally happened to mirror the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party in England during the mid-1980s. It now unintentionally seems to mirror the rise of Neo-Conservatism and George W. Bush in the United States in more recent times.

Like Orwell and 1984 before him, Moore has become an inadvertent prophet. Such is the magic of Moore’s writing that the story now seems to be relevant though it was never meant to be more than a bit of passing fantasy and a warning – not a reflection of times to come.

Reflections are very much a part of the story, however. Smoke and mirrors are the greatest weapons in V’s rather dramatic arsenal and very rarely is seeing worth believing. The themes of image and illusion are repeated throughout the novel along with a dozen other potential interpretations.

Moore’s plotting is at its most convoluted, but everything makes an odd kind of sense as everything slowly clicks together. I’ve heard it said that you have to be British to truly appreciate this story. I disagree, but do think that one must be very well read and traveled in order to get a lot of the more subtle references and quotes that V makes in his conversation. The Guy Fawkes references are rather obvious but I was shocked to see a rather subtle parallel between Don Quixote and V. I shall say no more than that – I have too much respect for the master magician to take you backstage before the show.

The art by David Lloyd is perfectly moody. I have heard that the intent with the style here was to emulate the film noir style (even the title fits the mold, being not too far removed from Dial M For Murder) and Lloyd succeeds beautifully here. Everything is shadowy, but elegantly so. What little white there is (such as V’s mask) seems to be rare and fleeting… in danger of being swallowed up by the darkness around it and disappearing forever. This closed-in style only serves to further emphasize the environment of oppression that is very much a part of the setting. And yet, the same art makes the shadows around V and his “Shadow Gallery” seem cozy and inviting.

All in all, this is one classic I should have read a lot sooner. It is a must read for all comics fans, whether you plan to see the movie or not. And speaking of the movie, some of you are probably wondering if I plan to review the film, or if I will sit it out in protest of how Alan Moore has, again, been slighted in regards to his creative wishes?

Rest assured – I’ll review the film next week as only a nit-picker like myself can (after I’ve had a chance to see it). What with the convention this week, I won’t have a chance to see it before the next column comes due. So join us next time – for my comments on my first Con performance as well as a review of V for Vendetta: The Movie

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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1 comment:

  1. Kudos!
    Great article! I'm glad I could be some help in your inspiration. Totally right on the money. I was up reading this book too when I should have been studying for class. Great job! Hopefully the movie gets somewhere close to doing the novel justice.