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Guy Fawkes, The Gunpowder Plot, and Rebellion in Fiction.

Posted on 4th November 2015 by Reece Dinn
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.
Bonfire night is here, a night in which we celebrate a failed attempt at the assassination of a King of England. A strange thing to celebrate, when you put it like that, but it is a story that has captivated the hearts and minds of the English people for centuries. People admire the courage to rebel against the establishment, even if that rebellion is a violent one.

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!

 

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