26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England's burning
This book's characters face down disappointments, corruptions, madness and dreams in a series of short stories - which all take place in a short radius in central England but are spaced over 6000 years (not 5000 as it says on the cover) until the present day. What can I say - one of the best books to travel through the history of England. Dark, bitter, loving, and...
Published on December 27, 2001 by andrew pothecary
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but very dense
Heavy book, it'll take you an age to finish it. A bit overdetailed at times, and the prehistoric and historic language is impressive, but challenging.
Published 14 months ago by David K. Stolowitz
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England's burning,
This book's characters face down disappointments, corruptions, madness and dreams in a series of short stories - which all take place in a short radius in central England but are spaced over 6000 years (not 5000 as it says on the cover) until the present day. What can I say - one of the best books to travel through the history of England. Dark, bitter, loving, and embedded in the earth below and burning with the fire above. Passages of brilliant prose will linger - no, just stay - with you. Ideas bounce around the confines of the book, ignited by the fires it tells of. From inventing a language in the first chapter (in which Moore imagines an English language of 6000 years ago, using a vocabulary of few words) to passages that make you realise just how rich the language can be (and infrequently is) you get the sense that Moore is in control and really working at this book. Stand-outs: that first chapter, a Roman facing both the loss of Empire and the savagery of the locals, a Crusader facing his own madness and the madness of his faith - and, in one of the most beautiful descriptive texts I know, the burning at the stake of two "witches" in love.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a work of magic,
By A Customer
I think that Rebecca Scott explains the book best in her greenmanreview.com review. Here is an excerpt:
"If Voice of the Fire has a protagonist, it must be Northampton itself, because this is the story of the formation of the mythology of that place. It is a geological study of the strata of the collective unconscious of the area. Each of its twelve chapters is the first-person story of an individual who crystallized into the forming stones in the hill of tales, whose bodies fed its grass and trees. Their histories wind through that of the land, bringing us closer and closer to the present day.
Each of the chapters includes a full-color plate, a photographic character portrait by Jose Villarrubia (who contributed to the very fine graphic novel Veils). These glow softly, and have a painterly quality about them that makes even the grimmest a gem. Yet this is a text novel, not a graphic novel, and the words are the things. Very fine words they are, too: "Trust in the fictive process, in the occult interweaving of text and event must be unwavering and absolute. This is the magic place, the mad place at the spark gap between word and world." The language is vivid, graphic (sometimes too graphic for someone who reads while eating). Each chapter, each story, has a distinct voice, radically different from the others...
This book is a work of magic ... If you let it, it will work a change in your consciousness ... So come, climb this hill of tales in the night of myth, draw close to the flames, listen to the voice of the fire, and let it work its spell in you." -- Rebecca Scott, GreenManReview.com
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Novel of the 90s?,
Most comics readers have heard of Alan Moore, and EVERYONE working in comics has been influenced by him. So when he released his first prose novel several years ago (1995?) I bought a British import and read it in a few days. Devoured it. Savoured every concrescence manifesting through the man's words. Loved it.
And then the book went out of print...
Until Top Shelf brought it back! (yesh)
Watchmen? From Hell? Tom Strong? Swamp Thing? A Small Killing? Halo Jones? Naw, it's different from all of them. Here's a quote from a current Moore interview: "I'd like to think that if I've shown anything, it's that comics are the medium of almost inexhaustible possibilities, that there have been...there are great comics yet to be written. There are things to be done with this medium that have not been done, that people maybe haven't even dreamed about trying. And, if I've had any benign influence upon comics, I would hope that it would be along those lines; that anything is possible if you approach the material in the right way. You can do some extraordinary things with a mixture of words and pictures. It's just a matter of being diligent enough and perceptive enough and working hard enough, continually honing your talent until it's sharp enough to do the job that you require."
He does the same thing with prose, pushing the medium in surprising directions. The closest literary equivalent I know of is 'Ulysses' - but that takes place in one day. 'Voice of the Fire' covers a few thousand years. Both are equally dulcet and disquieting. It's a book worth owning. And rereading.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel concept,
Alan Moore's first prose novel, which combusted onto the scene some ten years ago now, still has yet to receive much attention. This occurrence is strange, but understandable. The book, to give a brief overview, is a collection of twelve short stories taking place in twelve different time periods (stretching from 4,000BC to AD1995), all sharing the same setting of the central area of England that eventually becomes Northampton.
Moore, who is so famous I can trust to odds that you know the top three or four works he's most famous for, as revolutionized the comics industry in terms of storytelling, style, and tone time and again. And yet Voice of the Fire remains low on Amazon.com's list of books sold, its decade in the 84,450s list include the English Teacher's Book of Instant Word Games and a certainly captivating Dictionary of Financial Terms.
This, inasmuch as concerns what the public is fed through the New York Times Best Seller List, is unsurprising. Moore's book begins with a 40+ paged chapter about a Neolithic cave-boy's exile from his hunter-gatherer tribe. An emotional and moving story to be sure...if you can make it to the end. The story is told in the first person, using what Moore estimates to be less than five hundred words--his creative attempt at mimicking Neolithic speech and thought.
If you're wondering what to expect from the story: expect fire. And blood. Horror. Nightmares. And more fire besides. Be it ancient, Roman, Norman, or modern, Northampton has never been a very safe place to live, an issue Moore addresses personally as the protagonist in the final chapter, written in a stream-of-consciousness style.
Expect a smorgasbord of writing styles. Moore takes the driver's seat with his characters, and with a Dickens-esque talent to create new personalities the reader sees this single geographical area from such varied points of view as a murderess who plots to get rich quick, a Roman agent come to find a local money counterfeiter, and even a disembodied head upon a gate. Many of the novel's characters are based off of actual historical figures, giving the whole work a cryptic echo that weaves in an out of the story. This echo, this voice of the fire, is the most captivating part of the book, and for which reason I obnoxiously give this book its 5-star rating. Learning history is fun. Learning history within the context of history--even if it is fiction--is perhaps one of the most thought-provoking experiences one can have with a book.
I recommend this book to any reader who has an interest in history or anthropology. For writers, read this if you want to study up on character development or telling first-person stories in a myriad of ways. Moore fans, just read this; he's done it again.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a disturbing, stunning, even heartrending meditation,
These reviews I found would express what I think better than I can.
"Part mythic cycle, part fictional history of Moore's hometown, part collection of fireside ghost stories, Voice of the Fire is as clever and well-crafted as Moore's other genre experiments, and by taking his dialogue out of word-balloons and panel arrangements, it gives his limitless literary ambition room to stretch out into new and fascinating forms." -- Tasha Robinson, The Onion
"[Voice of the Fire] blends witchcraft, savagery, subjectivity, and the darkness that lies within each of us. The resulting narrative is a meditation on the twisting annals of history, the supernatural world between life and death, and the oft-thin line between fantasy and reality." -- Lloyd Babbit, MetroPulse.com
By summoning up the voices of the dead and burned, Moore stakes his claim as a grand magician and, unlike his colleague in Oz, he invites us to look at him behind his curtain of fire. Now singing, now screaming, he signals his message through the flames." -- Adam White, Indyworld.com
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Here is clever deep enough to drown in.",
I just finished this last night - what an intellectual workout. I don't recall feeling this spent upon completing a novel since I read Moby-Dick (Dover Giant Thrift Editions), and that was almost twenty years ago. If you're coming to this thinking, "I'm in the mood for a little light reading - I think I'll try the novel by that comic book guy," you've come to the wrong place.
VOICE OF THE FIRE is first and foremost a work of experimental fiction. If you're familiar with Alan Moore, you'll know that whether he's working in comics, prose, or performance art, he's all about pushing boundaries, and VOICE OF THE FIRE continues in this tradition. This is wonderful, but presents a tremendous stumbling block in the book's first chapter, "Hob's Hog". If you've read anything about the novel, you probably know that "Hob's Hog" is narrated by a mentally challenged Neolithic boy with a vocabulary of about 400 words. It's extremely challenging, but it's not quite as difficult as it sounds, especially since there are some pretty good resources on the net to help you puzzle it out (why, I'll bet you could find one just by looking at the by-line of this review!). The upside of this is that the rest of the book is (relatively speaking) plain sailing, although you still may want to do a little research on prehistoric Britain and the poet John Clare (the subject of one of the novel's later chapters) before diving in.
In conclusion, if you're intrigued by the experimental, the historical, or the places where beauty and terror meet, check this one out.
A Clockwork Orange (1962) - Anthony Burgess
Flowers for Algernon (1966) - Daniel Keyes
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - Arthur C. Clarke
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shamanic Journey in Northampton,
In ancient times, the keeper of the fire in human prehistoric tribes was the figure of the shaman. He or she channeled the powers of the spirits, and the Land, and of the human collective unconsciousness into lore that his or her people could understand -- mapping out a landscape in order to properly perceive, and therefore survive the world around them. As such, the shamanic figure was of necessity a storyteller.
As others have said, Voice of the Fire -- the essence of which the metaphorical storyteller gets his or her stories is not an easy journey, or vision-quest in any sense of the word. You, as the audience, have to follow the path set for you. It begins in prehistoric times from first-person point of view of a developmentally challenged young man who perceives language and therefore reality differently from those around him; to a cunning and cruel Bronze Age woman; to the time of Roman Occupation of Britain, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the witch-trials of the 1700s, Victorian times, a crime in the 1930s, and finally the more present day of 1995.
All of this takes place in England's Northampton. And as you follow the path from the prehistoric to the modern, in some ways the journey becomes easier and in other ways more difficult. The shaman, or elements of the shamanic are always ever-present, as is the mythology and history of the land. You can trace the pattern of history, and psycho-geography -- of the way the generations of people left their psychic mark on the land around them just as you can follow the tattoo paintings on a shaman's flesh. The beginning is full of almost pure metaphor and the core ideas are introduced by the narrator, becoming more direct, yet somewhat diluted in time.
As writer, as storyteller, as shaman in the intermediary sense of the word, Alan Moore channels the spirits of those that came before him, and that of the Land itself. It is the mythopoeic odyssey of people, and places. It is hard to follow, and it is unique. The reader must travel through the spiritual landscape, in a personal dream quest not unlike those of the characters around them. There is no other way. It is the only way.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Vital Message That Dead Men's Lips Still Speak",
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Whenever an admired comic book writer makes the crossover from comics to novels I usually leap at the chance to see how the writer acquits himself. To varying degrees I've never been disappointed, and such is the case with Alan Moore's novel "Voice of the Fire". Moore is a fantastic writer, not just in terms of storytelling, but also in how he arranges words on a page to accurately simulate the characters that speak through him. The novel, speaking through the men and women who have occupied the same stretch of England over thousands of years, is a masterful effort. Each section is spoken in the diction that resembles just how the narrator would have talked in that time period, from the jaunty ebullience of the bigamist in the 1930's to the jaded crusader in the 1100's, and even the decapitated head in 1607. I am not the first reviewer to comment on the difficulty of the first chapter's narrator, a half-witted man-child cast from his tribe after the death of his mother. Moore expertly constructs a point of view using a vocabulary of about 40 words or so, but even I found it difficult to slog through (I kept hoping I would unlock a rhythm much as I did in Faulkner's "Sound and the Fury" but I didn't). The advice offered by the writer of the introduction, a writer by the name of Neil Gaiman, is that it's not necessary to start at the beginning. Once you begin to understand the the dark forces that have permeated the whole of human history, you just might be intrigued enough to see how murder and religion came to be joined together.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an epochal masterwork,
profoundly brilliant, a tour de force. If you are reading this review then you should probably read this book. unlikely to ever be widely popular for all of the obvious reasons and some a bit more obscure, bound to offend many- most of whom probably need to be offended anyway.
the chapter detailing the first crusade from first person perspective should be required reading for anybody who still uses the term to denote something positive, regardless of whether the climactic revelation is factual or historical or not.
whatever criticisms might be leveled against it, valid or otherwise, this is a masterpiece. i don't think i'll keep it in my house because i wouldn't want my children to read it (before they're ready).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do you enjoy being blindfolded and led around?,
Let's see, the executive summary: In one word: Chthonic. In more than one: It was a mixture of gritty, nebulous, creepy, and possessed a certain gravity that I don't think really anyone else I know of right now could pull off. It was a challenge to read, and process.
The elegance of this book is that there is space in it. And by space, I mean, a lot of the blanks are left unfilled. Although at times I felt a little lost or disjointed, the final chapter gives you at least some help in coalescing the kaleidoscopic-ness of it all. You get what amounts to what a DVD commentary audio track does for a film in a sense. The first time I've ever read a book that had that - it helped me a lot.
If you like everything nice and tidy and linear and solar and upfront, be ready. Like I said above, you may feel blindfolded for some of the way on this one (I did), forcing you to illuminate your own path along the way. Yes. There is a smattering of daylight here and there, not much though.
If you don't mind working through a little bit of lunar mess, don't be scrrrd. This book is like an underground river which only surfaces every now and then, and in the most unexpected places. You have to be lucky to catch it when it does - but it's totally worth it. Several of the stories, if considered as standalone works, are remarkable. This book has that certain slow burn - it's not one to be devoured wholly right away. It's a slow release.
In general I would say Moore's technical skill as a short story-ist aren't what makes this book good, it's the vision and flavor and meta-storytelling that he does through these stories as a whole.
You have to be able to hold your breath for a time, so breathe in when you get a chance, and take a swim.
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Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore