Mind-meld James Michener, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King and you'll approach the territory the endlessly inventive Moore stakes out in his most magnum of magna opera.
Moore, the influential conjurer of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and other dark graphic masterpieces, seeks here to capture the gritty, sweaty demimonde of Northampton, England, between covers. It’s the Northampton of the wrong side of the tracks, a place where it’s necessary to ration the coins in one’s pocket carefully, staying in of an evening so as not to have to “go through the humiliating pantomime of taking charity” from someone with not much more in the way of cash to spare. Alma Warren, her name the first words in the book, is just 5 years old when we meet her, thrust into a bewildering world among people who speak a language doomed in the face of globalism: “’E ain’t gunner urcha,” says her mother of a fellow cowled and masked like a “phantom burglar” (shades of V), “un 'e dun’t see people very orften. Goo on in un say 'ello or else 'e’ll think we’re rude.” In this gloomy milieu of wet cobblestone streets and decaying buildings, Alma and her kin and acquaintances serve as focal points and guides. Moore constructs a world seen from many different points of view, from wizened old masked men to reticent, fearful children and not much more confident adults in search of some measure of happiness, or at least a little sex (“He has more sperm in him than he knows what to do with and the planet circling about his axis seems to share the same promiscuous excitement”). Many storylines dance through Moore’s pages as he walks through those humid streets, ranging among voices and moods, turning here to Joycean stream-of-consciousness and there to Eliot-ian poetry (“Their gait resembling the Lambeth Walk/While in the upper corners of the room/Are gruff, gesticulating little men”), but in the end forging a style unlike any other.
Magisterial: an epic that outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson, and other worldbuilders in vision and depth.