Still, it s interesting to compare the two narratives Gibbon on Julian the Apostate, Wilson on Julian Comstock because in the end both are about rulers who acquire imperial office through family relationships and military success, and then try to reverse the evangelical Christian regime established by their predecessors I haven t read Gore Vidal s novel Julian, which may be a direct source than Gibbon for Wilson There isn t a lot of suspense in either case we have a pretty good idea how things are going to turn out The reader s interest in both stories is engaged by the incidental details of the plot and the way in which the story is told.
As to the details, both writers are covering a world we barely recognise Gibbon has Julian proclaimed Emperor in the great hall of the Roman baths in Paris, which we can still see today Wilson has the presidential residence located in New York s Central Park Wilson of course has the harder task here, as he is inventing a setting rather than retrieving it from historical accounts, and there are only three groups of settings described in much detail the small village where Julian and the narrator grow up, the battlefields of Canada, and New York when Julian arrives as ruler Wilson s future America has suffered economic and military catastrophe, and seems not to have many non white people in it though it does have invading Europeans and persecuted Jews For Gibbon s past Roman Empire, the big catastrophe is yet to come, though he sees his Julian as the last, lost hope of reversing the Decline and Fall Each story has a central military set piece, the army of the West s march from Gaul to the middle Danube and the battle of Goose Bay in both cases prepared by the central character s earlier military successes and Wilson has the edge over Gibbon here as he can make up an eyewitness account rather than try to analyse other people s reports.
The most memorable feature of both stories is the way that they are told The delight of reading Gibbon is that he thinks he is smarter than the reader, and nonchalantly shows it at every stage Wilson s narrator, Adam Hazzard, is probably not as clever as the reader, and probably not as good a novelist as he thinks he is luckliy for us, both the woman he falls in love with and his friends Julian and Sam are smarter than he is, and this drives the book s humourous side As for the central character, though, I found Gibbon s Julian interesting and convincing than Wilson s NB that the author in both cases is sympathetic to the project of rolling back Christianity, though Gibbon disapproves of the details of the attempted restoration of pagan superstition and Wilson s narrator isn t as sure of the virtues of the project in the first place The similarity of background and basic plot is there but Wilson s Julian, once he gains power, starts to become dictatorial while also writing a screenplay about his hero, Darwin Gibbon s Julian as emperor seems much consistent in character with his behaviour before gaining power including his continued literary output A final point on languages Gibbon can nonchalantly throw in extended footnotes in Latin in fairness, he doesn t do this often in the expectation that the reader of 1781 will be able to follow the argument without too much difficulty Wilson has the odd phrase in French mostly from the narrator s Canadian lover and most strikingly a letter in Dutch p 189 from an enemy soldier, killed in Canada, to his lover I wonder how many readers will follow it no translation is given and get the rather grim joke about the dog on the next page First the Postives The book was well written had a nice new book smell Okay, on to the negatives MEHgatives , beginning with the advisory label I would require if I was Emperor of Literature for the world There is not a whole lot that I can add to that so, like the book, I will just sort of d.
t Or maybe I could just emulate the book and say the same thing several different ways You know like you say something and then you say the same thing but just a little bit differently Kind of take the first thing you said and say it using some different words For example, you could make a statement and then you could say it again but not quite the same way I suppose I should pause for a moment and make clear that I did not hate the book Hate requires strong feelings and I could not muster enough emotion about this one to even be irritated with it It was just sort of there, all Meh like and boring in its worn out structure and new idea lackness For those of you who have not read this, here is a quick plot summary It is the end of the 22nd century and due to your usual combination of resource depletion, natural disasters and nation against nation slap fests, the world has regressed into a kind of 19th century quasi industrial feudalism where people travel mostly by horse but there are also coal running trains You get the idea you ve seen it before many, many times There is a government organized around a President for life, a federally elected senate and the Dominion of Jesus Christ the DJC which is basically a combination IRS and Patent Office for churches and.
just between you a me.
the DJC also acts as a neat little vehicle for the author to bash on organized religion.
yawn we ve seen this before.
many, many times So against that recycled background, you have one boring character narrating the life of the boring title character who hates religion and the DJC and dreams of putting Charles Darwin to be on the One Dollar bill.
and 500 pages later, the book ends A long the way there is lots of meandering exposition, some pointless conversations, some dialogues that are forgettable enough that I can not remember them and a WHOLE LOTTA WALKING Now, there are also a few military skirmishes and several fairly large battles but the excitement has been miraculously edited out of them So in the end Meh.
If I have never read another book like this, I would have rated it higher as the quality of the prose was good But this was a case of been, there done that, been there, done that, been there, done that.
and so Meh 2.
Do you want to tell the truth, or do you want to tell a story Of course I wanted a story and what a story I have been given Amazingly beautiful told by the best narrator I have ever listened Adam Hazzard predestined name is perilously close to become my addiction His words are rolling, enveloping you in a world seen through the eyes of one of if not the kindest, honest, na ve in appearance , plain spoken and reliable friend ever.
Quoting him I mean to set down here the story of the life and adventures of Julian Comstock, better known as Julian the Agnostic or after his uncle Julian Conqueror Readers familiar with the name will naturally expect scenes of blood and betrayal, including the War in Labrador and Julian s run in with the Church of the Dominion I witnessed all those events firsthand, and at closer proximity than I might have liked, and they are all described in the five Acts as I call them that follow In the company of Julian Comstock I traveled from the pine bark Eden in which I was born all the way to Mascouche, Lake Melville, Manhattan, and stranger places I saw men and governments rise and fall and I woke many a morning with death staring me in the face Some of the memories I mean to set down aren t pleasant ones, or flattering, and I tremble a little at the prospect of reliving them, but I intend to spare no one we were what we were, and we became what we became, and the facts will ennoble or demean us, as the reader chooses to see it But I begin the story the way it began for me in a town in the boreal west, when Julian was young, and I was young, and neither of us was famous.
As always, RCW gives life to perfect characters his stories are wrapped around people and their experiences in various circumstances Do not expect out of the ordinary events or last minute twists do expect though to be amazed by how compelling the story of two young men in their journey to adulthood can be We are in the 22nd century United States are regressed to 18th century development due to the fall after the end of oil The country is a Republic, but Dominion Church of Jesus Christ on Earth is having a tremendous power books and movies from previous era have been banned the fewest can read, the better Darwin is considered the ultimate apostate Society is divided in three classes the Aristos owners from which Julian Comstock is, the leasing class workers of different crafts and the indentured laborers the owned our narrator, Adam is in between these last two But he knows how to read and write and has a deep love for books When Julian arrives in his town, fleeing from his murderer uncle the president , they became good friends, sharing their love for books and knowledge And so, their journey begins.
Of course there is than just the story of the two RCW touches a lot of sensitive subjects related to society, religion and humanity in general And through the words of Adam you ll get the thoughts and convictions of a philosopher Julian and simple people like Adam or others but who are willing to learn and are open minded pursuit of knowledge is a key issue in the book I think Julian s character was inspired by the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate He was a prominent philosopher and won a crushing victory against a Germanic army, same as here According to Wikipedia,Julian was a man of unusually complex character he was the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters He was the last non Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and he believed that it was necessary to restore the Empire s ancient Roman values and traditions in order to save it from dissolution He purged the top heavy state bureaucracy and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the expense of Christianity Julian also forbade the Christians from teaching classical texts and learning His rejection of the Christianity imposed on him in his youth, and his promotion of Neoplatonic Hellenism in its place caused him to be remembered as Julian the Apostate by the church.
Pretty much the description of our Julian Albeit him being such a complex character, I deeply rooted for Adam he will stay with me forever I am certain that I will come back and reread the book in the years to come.
And I could say a lot about this book, but I don t have the words to capture its beauty and geniality Instead, I will leave some fragments with you I think they are much convincing than I am I was feeling magnanimous the day was bright, the air had a delicate warmth, and a general languor had descended over the camp along with the swampy smell of the thawing prairie and an unfortunate breeze from the latrines.
After teaching a fellow private, Lymon Pugh, to read and writeI guess I can tell you how to make a fine Knocker That might be a good example, since I don t know what a Knocker is Oh, well, warming to his subject , I guess anyone can make a crude sort of Knocker you ve probably done it yourself, though maybe they call it by some other name in Athabaska A Knocker, Adam, you know the thing you use when you want to knock someone about the head Perhaps if you described it Put a stone in the end of a sock and you have one Swing it in a circle and bring it down on the skull of your enemy bang Lymon Pugh came by as I was deep in these reveries, and I showed him the letter He puzzled over it a moment My lessons in reading don t seem to have advanced this far, he said Of course you can t read it It s written in Dutch Dutch They don t just speak that noise, they also write it down I was moved by her somber expression, which implied a soul less hardened than she liked to pretend and I was even moved when she found the Christian charity to utter a quick prayer for the soul of poor dead Job Passe mon bonjour au Diable quand tu le verras And eventually that child of God was returned to his Creator scorned, insulted, beaten, humiliated, and finally nailed to a splintery cross and suspended in the Galilean sunshine until he died of his wounds both physical and spiritual God received this much abused gift by return mail, as it were, and He was ferociously scornful, and said to humanity, See what you do with Innocence See what you make of Love and Goodwill when it looks you in the eye And so saying He turned His back on Mankind, and determined never to speak to the human race again, or have any other dealings with it And even this, Julian said, might have been a useful lesson, taken as such but Man misunderstood his own chastening, and imagined that his sins had been forgiven, and put up effigies of the tortured demigod and the instrument on which he had been broken, and marked the event every Easter with a church service and a colorful hat And as God made Himself deaf to Man, so Man became deaf to God and our prayers languished in the dead air of our cavernous churches, and do so to this day I really don t know what to say about this terrific book It s the fourth book I ve read by Robert Charles Wilson and the best by far I really didn t think he could top Spin Let s be clear that this book is not about Julian Comstock It is about the narrator, a young man named Adam Hazzard Along with his best friend, Julian, we are taken on a tour of what must be every aspect of post apocalyptic America In this case, the apocalypse is brought about by the collapse of oil, pollution, plague, infertility, and global warming By the time this story starts, America has sort of been reformed I really loved Adam Hazzard He is sweet, innocent, and a loyal friend He s an unabashed romantic This story has a refreshing innocence to it thanks to Adam s narration For example, it s quite apparent that Julian is homosexual In a society that is controlled by religious zealots, that is the ultimate sin Although Adam tells us things that indicate that Julian is gay, he never says it outright and I suspect that he doesn t even realize it I found it refreshing the way he talked about his physical relationship with his wife, Calyxa in a manner that s much like an old movie where the door closes and we don t see what happens behind it.
Julian Comstock A Story of 22nd Century America is wonderful on so many levels I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story, even if they aren t science fiction fans It really doesn t read like science fiction, but it is.