Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot, and Rebellion in Fiction.
We love a bit of rebellion. Bookseller Reece Dinn takes on a tour of fiction's rebellious side in time for Bonfire Night tomorrow. Gun powder is not advised. And be careful with those sparklers now, children.
Stories of rebellion have been popular in literature for centuries. Victor Hugo's Les Miserables is a classic example of rebellion. In the later parts of the story the characters are caught up in the event of the June Rebellion, an anti-monarchist insurrection by Parisian republicans. While not a central theme of the story it is certainly recreates the uprising in vivid detail, in ways even a lot of modern writers struggle to do.
Charles Dicken's all time classic A Tale of Two Cities is perhaps the greatest historical novel ever written, and certainly one of the best stories of rebellion there is. It depicts the brutality demonstrated by the French revolutionaries during the French Revolution through the eyes of several different characters living in Paris during that time, and the social parallels between there and London.
Sir Walter Scott's Waverley tells the story of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 which sought to restore the Stuart dynasty in the person Charles Edward Stuart. An epic story, that in its entirety, spans 10 volumes, depending on what editions you find. Generally considered to be the first historical novel in the west.
There are plenty more examples in modern fiction too. Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety rivals A Tale of Two Cities in it's depiction of the French Revolution. Some might even argue that it is the greater novel. To Defy a King is a story based in and around the time of the Magna Carta and the fight to bring down the tyrannical King John.
More modern stories of rebellion and revolution include A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin, which tells the story of Harry Perkins, a fictional left-wing Leader of the Labour Party, and the coup d'etat to remove him. Isabel Allende's The House of Spirits shows a very violent and brutal military coup against a Chilean socialist government. A very powerful and moving novel that is revered by everyone who reads it.
Perhaps one of the most well known novels about rebellion is George Orwell's much loved 1984, in which the protagonist of the story, Winston Smith, makes a stand against the totalitarian regime that rules his world.
Another much loved novel of rebellion is Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West, joins an underground rebellion to overthrow the oppressive rule of the Wizard of Oz. A classic re-imagining of the world of Oz, and possibly one of the best examples of a Guy Fawkes-esque rebellion.
We can't in good conscience talk about rebellion in fiction without talking about Alan Moore's fantastic V for Vendetta . V himself even wears a Guy Fawkes mask as he plots to destroy the Houses of Parliament. Really this the definitive novel for Bonfire Night as V succeeds where Guy failed. I've always been interested to see if Moore would ever consider writing a sequel so we can see what a post-Parliament England would be like.
Moving deeper into the realms of Sci-Fi and Fantasy we have a plethora of great novels that a perfect examples of rebellion against the establishment.
One of my favourite novels, Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire, tells the story of a rebellion against the Lord Ruler, a seemingly godlike tyrant who rules the world with an iron fist, and his totalitarian regime. The plot to overthrow the Lord Ruler is akin to a heist movie and makes for a superb fantastical take on Guy Fawkes' legend. Night Watch by the late Terry Pratchett is another great fantasy book about a bloody revolution, and a Commander struggling to keep it all under control. Definitely the funniest book on the list, but no less poignant.
In Sci-Fi we have Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in which a supercomputer on the penal colony on the moon quietly gains consciousness and instigates a rebellion against the government, and develops a fine sense of humour while it's at it. We also have Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games Trilogy which, in the final book Mockingjay, sees the oppressed combatants of the Hunger Games rise up to fight against the government that forces them to kill for sport.
There are so many more novels we could include here that we could go on and on. Rebellion and revolution have been vital parts of our history since the dawn of man. They inspire us to rise up and make better worlds for ourselves. They're tales of courage and bravery, freedom and unity. We'll never stop loving them, and it's the reason why Guy Fawkes' failed Gunpowder Plot has been celebrated since 5th November 1605.
Happy Bonfire Night for tomorrow everybody!
Hidden away in the Record Department of the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, symbolic head of the Party.
In an alternate future in which Germany wins World War II and Britain becomes a fascist state, a vigilante named "V" tries to free England of its ideological chains.
First in the ground-breaking HUNGER GAMES trilogy. In a vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
For Commander Sam Vimes, it all feels horribly familiar. He's back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck. Living in the past is hard. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down the murderer and change the outcome of the rebellion.
Peopled by colourful characters from the nineteenth-century Parisian underworld; the street children, the prostitutes and the criminals, this novel tells the story of an escaped convict Jean Valjean, and his efforts to reform his ways and care for the little orphan girl he rescues from a life of cruelty.
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There, two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette.
Former steel worker Harry Perkins has led the Labour Party to a stunning victory at the general election. His manifesto includes removal of American bases and public control of finance. The Establishment is appalled by the prospect. As M15 conspires with the city and the press barons, Perkins finds himself in a no-holds-barred battle for survival.
The extraordinary objectivist science fiction classic by Robert A. Heinlein