Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raiding the Stacks: Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

This week I've decided to do something a little different than I usually do here at Kalpar's Arsenal. As my long-time readers are no doubt aware by now, I've been making an effort to continue my Raiding the Stacks feature where I read public-domain books on my kindle and review them for the reading pleasure of my two fans. Normally I've been sticking with books that would still count as science fiction or fantasy but this week I've decided to take a look at Victor Hugo's opus, Les Miserables.

As my readers are probably aware, a movie version of the musical Les Miserables is due to come out next month and I am just the slightest bit excited about it. I saw a stage production of the musical a very long time ago and ended up loving it immensely, putting it on the very short list of musicals I like. Since the movie was coming out very soon I decided this was an optimal time to go and read the original novel by Victor Hugo upon which the musical is based. I am forced to admit, that I found reading Les Miserables a considerable challenge, and not just because it's a long book. As the Nostalgia Chick has pointed out before, Les Miserables is one of the longest books ever written, and paper editions come in at around a thousand pages. "But Kalpar!" my reader is probably saying, "How can length possess a challenge to you? You've read other bricks of text like the Song of Ice and Fire series and the Gaunt's Ghosts series. How can a thousand page book pose such a challenge for you?" Well, dear reader, I thank you for your concern but it was not simply its length, but the sheer density of Hugo's tome that gave me one of my most difficult reading challenges to date. 

The way I approach Les Miserables, I divide the book into roughly two parts. The first part consists of the actions of the characters we know and love from the musicals: Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, Fantine, the Thenardiers, Cosette, Marius, and Enjolras and his band of rebels. The parts that actually contain the characters and focus on their development, their interactions, and the continuation of their plots is really interesting and I flew through those parts of the books. If Les Miserables had consisted of purely a focus on the characters, then I would have found this as compelling and interesting to read as other the other, many doorstoppers I have tackled. The problem is that Hugo frequently diverts himself from the compelling characters of his novel and decides to talk at great length about whatever subject he pleases.

Now, in the sake of fairness I will admit that I have read, on the internet, that some people enjoyed Hugo's essays on subjects as varied as the Battle of Waterloo, the Paris sewer system, and the development of French slang. The fact that Les Miserables was a best-seller when it was published in 1862 and remains a popular book suggests that a significant number of people still enjoy Hugo's writing. (Although I suspect the nineteenth century audience enjoyed it because they didn't have TV or Internet to entertain them.) Even considering the opinions of unknown people I've vaguely heard about from somewhere, Hugo's essays are extremely boring and, in my opinion, frequently do not contribute to the development of the plot. Even in the case of Hugo's lecture on the Paris sewers, which prefaces Jean Valjean and Marius's escape into them, it really does not need to be over fifty pages long and go over the history of the sewers of Paris from the 1400's. At best, I found Hugo's essays an entertaining distraction, at worst a complete derailing of the book's momentum. 

The book's real strength, as I have mentioned before, lies in its characters and the parts when Hugo deigns to focus on them. Granted, I found the whole love affair between Marius and Cosette somewhat childish, especially considering during the book they have never spoken to each other and yet remain madly and deeply in love. I guess it's no worse than some of the other romance plots that have come out in the hundred and fifty years since Hugo wrote this book. A theme which I found rather interesting, although it was never really expanded upon, was the tendency of characters to put their complete faith in something other than god and for that faith to be utterly shattered in some way through the course of the book. Marius puts faith in his father and Thenardier, only to discover that Thenardier is really a despicable bottom-feeder and criminal. Even knowing the truth about Thenardier, Marius feels compelled to at least assist Thenardier. On the other hand we have Javert, who puts his complete faith in the law, as well as the infallibility of anyone who is a part of the "establishment" and the inherent wickedness of anyone on the wrong side of the law. This faith is shaken throughout the course of the book when Javert discovers that the mayor Monsieur Madeleine is the escaped convict Jean Valjean, and utterly shattered when Jean Valjean has Javert at his mercy and spares Javert's life. Javert's worldview is so utterly shattered that he finds it impossible to continue to live and throws himself into the Seine. But perhaps the character that resonated the most with me, personally, was Jean Valjean himself towards the very end of the book. As Cosette and Marius enter marital bliss, Jean Valjean convinces himself that he does not deserve to join in their happiness and refuses to forgive himself for sins committed long ago. Even though we the readers know he has atoned for those sins, Jean Valjean refuses to believe he has earned the happy life that he could easily take. It was truly heart-rending to see Jean Valjean put himself through that experience and it managed to touch even my shriveled and cynical heart.

For a reader interested in the characters of Les Miserables and their individual stories, I would recommend sticking to an abridged version of the book or enjoying an adaptation of the stage musical. Both are excellent options that don't loose too much in the adaptation process and allow you to really focus on the characters and let you fall in love with or in some cases really despise them. I'm certain that for many years there will still be a strong academic interest in the unabridged version of Les Miserables (much as there continues to be academic interest in the unabridged version of Moby Dick) but I don't think the average twenty-first century audience will really be interested in most of Hugo's diversions. By all means, feel free to tackle the challenge of completing Les Miserables, but it's really one of the best examples of how dense nineteenth century literature can become.  

If I can convince Carvan, another major fan of Les Miserables, to go to the movie, then we might do a joint review of it in the future. Plus, I wrote it down so he can't back out! Hopefully we'll let you know what we think about it and will be able to provide our own opinions. Come back next week when I wax nostalgic about The Hobbit.

- Kalpar 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kalpar Lectures: The History of Christmas

Well, the Christmas madness has finally taken hold here in the United States, despite our best efforts to ignore it until the last possible moment. To help everyone get into the Christmas spirit Kalpar gives a lecture about how we got to where we are today and who exactly to blame for it. Be sure to check out my review of Les Miserables on Thursday!

- Kalpar 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I Am Fairly Out, And You Are Fairly In

Greetings. I hope you are all well stuffed on leftovers still and perhaps got some lovely shopping deals as well. You know where the pilgrims came from right? England. You know who loves England? Carvan? Do you know who can't think of a better transition to open up this next segment of the Let's Play? Forget it. Don't answer. Just watch these videos and eat more food.

Part 8:

Part 9:

God Save the Queen
- Carvan

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Writers of the Future, Volume XXVIII

I have always had a cordial relationship with science-fiction anthologies in the past. Whether it's something like Zoo 2000 that included various stories from different authors, or The Complete Robot  which included many short stories from one author I always enjoyed the bite-sized tidbits of science fiction goodness. And there were plenty of hours between exams or on long road trips where a handy anthology saved me from utter boredom. Plus, one of the great benefits of an anthology like the one I'm talking about today is you get to experience the writing styles of many different authors in one book and get introduced to some authors who you might to read more stories from in the future.

Writers of the Future, Volume XXVII, contains thirteen stories from 2011 written by first-time fantasy and science fiction authors and judged by a professional panel. I think it's really great that there's a way for aspiring authors to put their work out there and have the opportunity for it to be read by a wide variety of people and maybe get doors opened for them in the publishing world. I also enjoyed the stories contained within this anthology so I am thankful to the panel of judges for picking excellent stories for publication.

If I were to go into specific detail about all thirteen short stories we'd be here all day, so I'll instead keep this brief. There were definitely a few stories that I didn't really care for, but that was more my personal taste rather than the stories being outright bad or offensive. This book is a great way to kill time if you're waiting for an appointment or have a spare half hour, because you can read just one story and then put the book back down. Plus you might end up really liking what the author wrote and look for more stories and books from those authors in the future.

Overall it's a good anthology and I like its mission. If you're looking for thirteen quick stories to tide you over on the bus then you could definitely do worse than this.

- Kalpar

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Erin Go Take Over Ireland

Hello friends! Our conquest of the British Isles continues as we pick on Ireland, and in our spare time we take part in a Danish succession crisis. We fabricate some claims, have some wars, and just generally serve to be a complete menace, all the while increasing our power. Sound like fun? Of course it is, because dear readers, history is fun!

Part 5:

Part 6:

God Save the Queen
- Carvan

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

As my readers are no doubt well-aware, I am a huge fan of the writings of Terry Pratchett, specifically his much-acclaimed Discworld series. When I heard that he had written a new book called The Long Earth I was very interested. Furthermore this was an introduction to the science-fiction writer Stephen Baxter who has collaborated with giants such as Arthur C. Clarke in the past and he may show up again on the blog. (We'll see when I work through my backlog, which is huge!) Anyway, although The Long Earth starts out with a lot of promise, it ended up being rather disappointing with a lackluster ending.

I actually discussed this book with a friend who actually introduced me to Terry Pratchett and we agreed that the problem with The Long Earth is that it starts with an excellent premise with a lot of potential, but that potential is never really fully developed in the novel. In 2015 the schematics for a device known as a "stepper" appear on the internet, which consists of easy-to-find circuitry and is powered by a potato. The stepper allows people to travel to parallel earths which are very similar to our own earth but are entirely devoid of people. Despite limitations such as the inability to carry iron or steel across worlds, people quickly expand across the alternate earths to set up vacation communities, harvest resources now scarce on the original earth (now called Datum), or even leave Datum entirely to settle. The opportunities for adventure and exploration are literally limitless in the world Pratchett and Baxter have created.

The main plot centers around Joshua Valiente, a member of the roughly fifth of the population who can step between worlds without the aid of a stepper. Joshua is recruited by the powerful Black Company. Joshua will accompany Lobsang, a Tibetan motorcycle repairman reincarnated as an artificial intelligence, on a journey across the Long Earth to see what's out there. Meanwhile problems occur back home on Datum as well as across the Long Earth as humanity adapts to infinite resources and space.

I think the weakest thing about this book is that the majority of its focus becomes uninteresting. Most of the book follows the travels of Joshua and Lobsang as they go further into the Long Earth to discover what's out there. While it's cool to see all the different earths with distinct animal life and geographies, it gets extremely tedious after a while. Eventually I got utterly bored with the adventures of Lobsang and Joshua and I was more interested in the secondary plots happening on Datum. You see, along with a fifth of the human population being able to step between world without a stepper, another fifth of the population are unable to step between worlds even with a stepper. At best they can be physically carried by another person across worlds, but the process makes them violently ill and the majority of them are stranded on Datum. I ended up being more interested in the fate of Datum and the people who were unwilling, or unable, to travel the Long Earth.

The book also mentions the repercussions of the opening of the Long Earth, with significant portions of country's populations just leaving Datum, and causing a major world-wide economic recession. I think it would be really great to explore the consequences of a significant portion of the population just leaving and how humanity would cope. Furthermore, once-valuable metals like gold and platinum become worthless on Datum because almost anyone can step to an alternate world and bring back enough gold to crash the market. Perhaps what I found most interesting was the resentment of the "phobics", the 20% of the population that can't leave Datum, and their embrace of radical ideologies and hatred of steppers. Unfortunately, what I considered to be the most interesting aspects of the world Baxter and Pratchett have created remain largely out of focus for the majority of the novel and the focus is instead on the increasingly tedious Joshua/Lobsang exploration mission.

Overall I was fairly disappointed with this novel, despite the stellar work from one of the contributors in the past. Pratchett and Baxter set up a fascinating premise with literally infinite possibilities, but it ends up being executed in a rather tedious and boring manner. I may read the explicitly planned sequel to this book, but I'm don't have rather high expectations. I'd suggest at best waiting on this book until the sequel comes out and then maybe taking them both together. Otherwise, you can probably leave this one.

- Kalpar

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Don't Be a Hero, by Chris Strange

Some of my readers may remember that earlier this year I read Chris Strange's debut novel, The Man Who Crossed Worlds, and I ended up really enjoying its pulp-noir urban fantasy feel. Well, recently Chris was kind enough to send me an advanced copy of his next novel, Don't Be a Hero. While it has nothing to do with the Miles Franco series, I still found it highly enjoyable and I would recommend it to adult fans of superheroes everywhere. (Trust me, this book is not for kids.)

If I were to summarize Don't Be a Hero, I would be forced to admit it bears more than a passing resemblance to Watchmen by Alan Moore, just set in New Zealand. Basically, in the mid twentieth century an explosion at Los Alamos resulted in Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and seven other people being exposed to radiation. Instead of dying from this exposure, Dr. Oppenheimer and his associates in typical Silver Age fashion developed superpowers and became a hero team known as the Manhattan Eight, and together they helped the allies defeat the Nazis and win World War II. The presence of the Manhattan Eight, however, did not stop the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and there were additional atomic bombings in places like Warsaw, Poland and Auckland, New Zealand. Of the survivors of such bombing, a number of people developed superpowers like the Manhattan Eight and became metahumans. Many went on to form their own crime-fighting teams or use their powers for the benefit of humanity.

As bright as the future seemed for the metahumans, it quickly turned out to be too good to be true. Along with the 100% chance of developing cancer as a result of their exposure to radiation, public opinion turned against the metahumans in the early 1960's and forced heroes everywhere to hang up the cape. Now most metahumans live in segregated ghettos as second class citizens and are mistrusted by the majority of the population. However, when a supervillain called Quanta emerges and starts putting a dangerous plan into action, only retiring superheroes Spook and the Carpenter can hope to stop him in time.

As I mentioned, this book has a lot of similar elements to Watchmen, such as a public mistrust of superheroes and legislation curtailing their activities. Don't Be a Hero is different, however, in two very important respects. The first is the fact that the world has to adapt to the existence of people with honest-to-god superpowers. While I really disagreed with the world's decision to tightly regulate metahumans and equip all of them with kill-switches as a safety feature, I at least understand their rationale for going to such extreme measures. The other big difference between Don't Be a Hero and Watchmen is that Watchmen is really analyzing the type of personality it would take to choose to dress up in a costume and go fight crime. Don't Be a Hero, however, really focuses on what it takes to become a superhero, beyond having some really nifty powers. If you enjoyed Watchmen, then you'll definitely enjoy this similar yet unique approach to superheroes.

I also had a few things in specific that I really liked about Don't Be a Hero, the first being one of our main characters, Niobe (aka Spook). To be perfectly honest, I hate that I'm giving credit for the fact that Chris wrote in a well-developed female character who also happened to be a lesbian. It's the twenty-first century, having characters like that really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. That being said, there is an unfortunate trend in fiction today to depict women certain ways in fiction and lesbians are frequently sources of fanservice rather than developed characters. However, in Don't Be a Hero I never felt like the fact that Niobe was a woman, and a homosexual woman at that, was ever a big deal. Her relationship with her girlfriend, Gabby, came across to me as realistic, adult, romantic relationship and I didn't feel like it existed purely as fanservice to the readers. Was there a little fanservice in there? Yeah, but their relationship had depth beyond that. So I ended up really appreciating Chris's writing in that regard.

The other thing I really liked about this book was Chris's inclusion of his native New Zealand as a setting in the novel. It's more of a personal pleasure, but I always appreciate it when an author sneaks in a little bit about their home area into the novel and leaves a distinct geographic fingerprint. Plus it was a refreshing change of pace to see superheroes running around in Auckland, New Zealand, instead of New York City where they seem to always end up for some reason.  I also liked Chris slipping native Maori culture into the narrative as well, something you just probably wouldn't get in New York City. Again, this is my own personal preference, but a refreshing change of pace from superheroes in the Big Apple.

If you're a fan of superheroes and superhero deconstructions, I definitely would recommend checking out Don't Be a Hero. I also recommend this book because I greatly enjoy Chris Strange's work and it's been an honor to know him since his first novel. (Thanks for the advance copy, Chris! And seriously, watch out for them sheep on your island!)

- Kalpar

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kalpar Lectures: Disney buying Star Wars

While everyone else was busy with the hubbub of the presidential election, Kalpar was busy talking about Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm Limited and its associated properties. (Don't worry, Kalpar submitted his ballot too, but you got to focus on the important stuff!) Thanks for watching and be sure to check out Kalpar and Carvan's debate over V for Vendetta

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why King James I & VI Was a Jackass, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love V for Vendetta

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! Give children pennies and burn some effigies and have a right good old time!

Depicted: Fun

After having celebrated this most auspicious of nights, I thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and have a little chat. Specifically, I would like to rebut the argument made by the esteemed Mr. Kalpar regarding V for Vendetta. While I will not go so far as to say that V for Vendetta is a perfect film, I would put it that Kalpar's charge that the film has philosophical flaws is grossly overstated. I would like to start by echoing Kalpar in saying that objectively, the acting, special effects, the tone and ambiance all work very well together to produce a quality product. However, I do take issue with Kalpar's argument that the film fails on a philosophical level.

Depicted: Wrong

There is some legitimacy to the point that the film shanghais the historical person of Guy Fawkes and turns him into some kind of radical freedom fighter, which V goes on to later parallel and emulate. While Kalpar is largely correct in labeling Fawkes as a religious terrorist, there are some important parallels between the goal Fawkes was trying to achieve and what V tries to achieve in the film.

For those of you who don't know, the lead up into the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes Day begins with Henry VIII's break from the Catholic Church and the subsequent back and forth England had between being a Catholic nation and a Protestant nation with the monarch as head of both Church and State. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, several rather stringent laws were passed by Parliament to enforce the authority of the Church of England and Elizabeth's role as the head of said Church. While the laws were targeted directly at the queen's ministers and vassals, they nevertheless still applied to the everyman as well. Elizabeth's successor would have to deal shrewdly with both Catholics and Protestants to ensure that England could be governed effectively.

Enter King James the I of England and VI of Scotland. James was a masterful politican who did his absolute best to play both sides, Catholic and Protestant, off of each other until he determined who would "win" in the end. James' bid for the English throne was not an easy one to make, and much like modern politicians he was willing to promise a great deal to gain the support of English nobles. Specifically, James promised to repeal the laws restricting Catholicism, and to allow some degree of religious freedom within his realm. As you might expect, once he was strapped into the throne, James' disdain for "popery" is keenly felt and the laws against Catholicism in England would be kept in place or made more stringent.

Depicted: Douche

The leaders of the Gunpowder Plot sought to redress these wrongs through the natural course of blowing up the King and all of Parliament at the opening of a new session scheduled for 5 Novemeber 1605. Their overall plan after having blown up said king was to reinstate England as a Catholic nation with a Catholic monarch at her head.

While perhaps not the best comparison and means of political redress, I do think that Fawkes and V are both striving for the same goal: the overthrow of a government which has up to that point oppressed a given group of its citizens. Again, granted the means are not exactly keen, nor is the plan beyond the attack very well thought out as to what will be accomplished after the explosion, but the philosophy of the ideas is largely congruent; the head of state has chosen to ignore or spurn the rights of a (significant) portion of the citizenry. Is Fawkes the libertarian fighter we see in the film? No. But, I think to say that his actions are not driven by a restriction on human rights would be a fallacy.

Like Fawkes, V's drive for liberty is motivated by personal cause. Whereas for Fawkes it was religious vengeance on a king whom he felt betrayed his promises to Catholics, for V it is on a leadership who betrayed the trust of the people and used them for experimentation and fearful exploitation. To Kalpar's point that V is motivated not by a desire to liberate Britain from Norsefire, but by personal revenge, I would have to agree to some extent. I do think V is trying to free Britain from the rule of a government whose methods and means are horrifically oppressive and atrocious, however, he seems to go about doing so in such a way that allows him to revenge himself on those who personally wronged not only him, but all those who were subjected to the tests of the government run facilities.

The individuals V seeks to bring down, with the possible exception of the coroner, were people who held leadership roles in the party and the government. Prothero specifically springs to mind as one who might be necessary for V to remove. Removing a trusted and respected and authoritative public party voice is something which might allow the citizenry to think a little more for themselves. Perhaps it is a weak argument, but the communications we receive do color our viewpoints and assassinating individuals like Prothero, Creedy, etc. are necessary in ensuring not only that the populace might have a chance at change, but that the old regime does not rear its head once again. I would argue that the philosophical point here is muddied by the aversion to V's methods; we'd like to think the hero of the story could act simply for the common good and interest and not in his own. V, for better or worse tries to have his cake and eat it too. I argue that it is certainly revenge, but a necessary one.

Depicted: Motivation

Finally to Kalpar's point that V is not a character he can get behind, I can fully understand his position, but I simply disagree. V is an anarchist in the sense that he does not want the government that is established. Fawkes was an anarchist in much the same way. Though I think to call them true anarchists that wanted no government at all would be a gross misnomer. It was not that Fawkes or V wanted NO government, but simply that the government that existed was not serving their personal interests or the interest of any who were like them. Further to the point, the types of government Fawkes and V were up against, a divine right monarchy and a despotic "conservative" regime respectively, offered them no other means of redress save violence. In a sense I mean that "You don't vote for kings." The system had failed them in offering them no means of redress or protest to change the system short of literally blowing it up. The system needed to be burnt to the ground because there was no way to change it short of tearing it down and rebuilding it. V does not have a problem with the whole of government and welcomes Finch's investigation into the Norsefire regime, but within the regime itself, there was no way change could have been reasonably affected. However, I do agree with Kalpar that there is going to be a good deal of strife and turmoil as the country attempts to rebuild.

As Kalpar said, much of these reviews was subjective, and on an objective level the film is well done. I suppose it largely comes down to where your personal alignment on the issue stands. To grossly over-embellish my stance vs. Kalpar's, he is Adams and I am Jefferson. Ideally people should not have to fear their governments and governments should not have to fear their people. Both should be able to rely on each other for mutual support, encouragement and growth. When this is not possible, the government needs must be changed for the good of the people.

Depicted: Badasses

As a final note, I have always liked the fact that Guy Fawkes Day typically falls around the American Election Day. I do like that, for me at least, it serves as a reminder that the principles of government necessitate consent of the people and that if redress is needed then we have the forums to do that. Free speech, protest, and the right to vote are all essential to our society and allow for transitions which do not require the detonation of explosives. Thankfully we have grown into a culture with values and traditions not found in Fawkes' or V's England; I think V for Vendetta serves the purpose of illustrating the barbarity that can occur when those values are not respected. So in closing, whatever you do tomorrow yanks, just make sure you get to the polls and exercise the freedoms that you have!

God Save the Queen
- Carvan

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's the Counties that Count

Greetings friends.

Rest assured that I am preparing my rebuttal for tomorrow based on Kalpar's scathing review of V for Vendetta. However, in the meantime, I do have some Let's Plays for you. We look to expand our territories by moving into more or less neutral territories in Wales and Ireland. They're not neutral in the sense that they are unowned, but they are simply owned by people who are not powerful enough to stop us, therefore they belong to us. See? Aren't I a good Englishman?

God Save the Queen
- Carvan

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kalpar Lectures: Why Kalpar Dislikes V for Vendetta

Among my friends it has become a tradition to watch the movie V for Vendetta in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day on November 5th. (Well, Carvan celebrate Guy Fawkes Day while I celebrate the Prussian victory at the Battle of Rossbach.) Initially I rather liked V for Vendetta, but upon multiple viewings I noticed a few problems that I personally had with the film. While it hasn't built into an all-consuming hatred for this movie, it has developed into what I would call an extreme disliking for it. And so today I'd like to talk about why I have issues with V for Vendetta and why I think it's not that great of a film. And if you're wondering why I'm posting it early, well this is so our good friend Carvan has some time to prepare his inevitable rebuttal for Guy Fawkes Day. 

Now, before I get into my issues with the movie, I want to make it clear that most of my problems are on a philosophical, and therefore subjective footing. If I were asked to say if V for Vendetta was objectively bad, I would say no. The A-list cast of Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Fry did an excellent job, the movie's very well made, and there are even some parts which I enjoy. (Basically any part of the movie that involves Stephen Fry I like.) Furthermore, I am specifically addressing the movie in my post today, not the original comic book by Alan Moore. I am aware that the movie varies in some aspects from the comic, but as I have not read the comic yet I am unable to pass judgement on that work. All of my complaints are specifically focused on the movie and its more subjective content.

The first issue that I want to talk about, and I will admit this is my weakest argument, is that V for Vendetta uses bad history. My long-time readers should be utterly unsurprised that I simply cannot leave the history alone and must drag it into the argument, but I feel that this is a critical problem with the film. At the beginning of the movie we see Guy Fawkes and the attempted Gunpowder Plot in 1605 where Guy Fawkes and a number of other conspirators attempted to blow up King James I and Parliament. The problem with this, though, is that Guy Fawkes is depicted as a freedom fighter attempting to topple an unjust regime, much like the main character V does later in the film. However, this could not be further from the truth because Guy Fawkes was quite simply a religious terrorist. To provide more context, Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were English Catholics who had hoped that James I (originally the Scottish monarch James VI who ascended the throne after Elizabeth I died without an heir) would end Protestant rule in England and bring the Catholic Church back. James I, however, found that he quite liked being in charge of his own religion and decided to stick with this Protestantism idea. (All right, that might be a gross exaggeration since James was raised Protestant, but you get the idea.) The goal of the Gunpowder Plot was to return England to Catholic rule, rather than to topple an unjust regime. Now, I'm sure Carvan will point out that the English had extremely strict laws against Catholics at the time, but considering that the Gunpowder Plot was the third Catholic assassination attempt against James in three years, can you really blame him for not trusting papists?

My point here ultimately is that in the movie Guy Fawkes is depicted as a freedom fighter when in history he was really a religious terrorist interested in reestablishing the control of the highly conservative Catholic Church. The movie simply could not be any further off the mark with its history and we really should not accept this from our films. I am acutely aware that there will be many, many historical inaccuracies in films but as viewers we really should not tolerate such blatant manipulation of facts. When your entire philosophical premise is based upon an outright lie, as it is in V for Vendetta, it calls the legitimacy of your whole argument into question. And, just as Guy Fawkes was no freedom fighter, neither is V, despite what the movie tries to tell us.

Throughout the film V is painted as a freedom fighter intent on toppling the unjust and tyrannical Norsefire government in Britain.  I mean, look at the poster at the top of the page: "Freedom! Forever!" And really, I think we're supposed to side with V in the movie because the Norsefire government is so utterly horrific in its abuses of human rights that they can't be anything but villains. But, as far as I can tell from V's actions in the movie, his primary goal is not liberating Britain from the yoke of Norsefire rule. V instead is motivated primarily by revenge in the film and for much of the movie we watch him specifically hunt down and assassinate people who were in charge of the concentration camp where he was interred. Instead of attacking strategic resources necessary for the Norsefire government to function and maintain its despotic grip, V chooses to spend a year-long campaign attacking individuals who personally harmed him in the past. This is further reinforced by the fact that V's favorite work of fiction is The Count of Monte Cristo, a work in which revenge is a significant overarching theme and remains a motivation for the main character of Edmond Dantes. However, V tragically misses one point of The Count of Monte Cristo, which is that revenge ultimately isn't worth it. Edmond Dantes is only saved at the last minute from becoming utterly consumed in his pursuit of revenge, but in the film V is both figuratively and literally consumed in his pursuit of revenge when his body is engulfed in the explosion which destroys Parliament. Unlike Dantes, V does not learn that the pursuit of revenge is a futile and unfulfilling gesture which makes you just as bad as, if not worse than, the people who harmed you in the first place. Especially considering V tortures the character of Evie in the same manner that the Norsefire government tortures "undesirables" it's hard to say if V is really any better.

My final point is that even as a freedom fighter, V isn't really a character I can get behind. V doesn't provide any sort of ideas or structure of how things should be run after he topples the Norsefire government. Which is more or less the point because V is an anarchist and doesn't believe in any form of government control so once Norsefire is gone he's accomplished his goal. Really, this is where my inherently Lawful sensibilities come to the fore in this argument and it becomes more a matter of personal preference than anything else. On many levels modern society needs a government and even the most hardened libertarian will admit that we need a government to maintain infrastructure and protect personal property. If you got up, ate breakfast, and brushed your teeth today, the government has already affected you by making sure your cereal wasn't 90% rat shit and your toothpaste didn't contain radium. To take a modern society and completely burn down  the established order would be to condemn thousands, if not millions, to death from starvation, disease, and internal strife. Does the Norsefire government need to be reformed? Yes, very much so, but it still contains good people like Inspector Finch. To burn the entire system down is both spiteful and childish. It would have been better for V to motivate the people to actively resist and push for reform from the Norsefire government rather than to violently destroy it.

Overall V for Vendetta just fails so completely with its philosophical arguments, at least as far as I am concerned, that I cannot enjoy it as a movie. Despite the excellent job of the cast, crew, and editors I find myself frustrated by its message and assumption that anarchy is preferably to any government at all. People should not have to fear their governments, but they should be able to rely upon their governments to provide order and structure for them to thrive. I know if I had to fighting off slavers every morning before breakfast, I'd never get any blogging done, and then where would we be? Not reading Kalpar's Arsenal, that's for sure. While fascism, intolerance, and totalitarianism should be resisted wherever they rear their ugly heads, there are better ways of doing it than burning the world around you. V for Vendetta offers no such alternative methods within its content and offers a bleak future for post-Norsefire Britain.

- Kalpar