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Voice of the Fire

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,625 ratings  ·  176 reviews
Master storyteller Alan Moore (Watchmen) delivers twelve interconnected stories of lust, madness, and ectasy, all set in central England and spanning over six thousand years, the narratives woven together in patterns of recurring events, strange traditions, and uncanny visions. First, a cave-boy loses his mother, falls in love, and learns a deadly lesson. He is followed by an extrao() ...more
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published January 6th 2004 by Top Shelf Productions (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical, literary, fantasy
Where to start with this incredible book?

I have just tried and failed three times to start this sentence. I sit here, drained after a day of university work, hard thinking and slow research and two pots of tea, drinking a gin and tonic and trying to recall the feeling of reading Moore's unbelievably ambitious novel. I guess I'll begin at the beginning (but not at Neil Gaiman's introduction, I'll save that for later).

The first chapter is incredibly hard to read, written in the first person from the pe
Vit Babenco
Oct 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Time and place: time passes, place remains… The passage of time alters the place… But the fire keeps burning.
“Our Art concerns all that may change or move in life, but with their endless writ they seek to make life still, that soon it shall be suffocated, crushed beneath their manuscripts. For my part, I would sooner have the Fire. At least it dances. Passion is not strange to it.”
So what's Voice of the Fire about?
“It's about the vital message that the stiff lips of decapitated men
Wes Hazard
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece of voice, a vivid evocation of place, and a damn good piece of storytelling, this book is rewarding on every level, plain and simple. Moore drapes himself in 12 different personae (well 11 really, the final section is autobiographical...though, as he's careful to note, still fiction) beginning in 4500 BC and leading up to the present day, all of them inhabitants of or visitors to Northampton England. Some of these characters are based on historical figures, others are total fabrica ...more
Lee Broderick
'A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I’s feet and wetting they.'

It's a brave thing to begin your debut novel in the first-person voice of a child with developmental issues. A child that cannot distinguish dreams from reality; that cannot understand how to lie; that is incapable of looking after himself. It's a braver thing too when that's not the focus of the novel.

'A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I’s feet and wetting they.'

It's a brave thing to begin your debut novel in the first-person voice of a child with developmental issues. A child that cannot distinguish dreams from reality; that cannot understand how to lie; that is incapable of looking after himself. It's a braver thing too when that's not the focus of the novel.

Alan Moore is often mentioned as one of the most highly regarded British writers working today and yet this remains his only novel. Like Neil Gaiman, he had worked almost exclusively as a comic-book writer until 1996. Both released their debut novels in that year ( Neverwhere for Gaiman - Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch doesn't count here since it was co-authored with Terry Pratchett and it was Pratchett that did most of the writing) but whereas Gaiman grew a reputation as a Fantasy novelist, this remains Moore's only novel to date.

Moore's both a proud Englishman and a keen occultist so it should be no surprise that both of those influences weigh heavily on this text. His subject is his home town, Northampton, and his metaphor is fire. As a metaphor, it's a useful one, with many associations - bright, warming, comforting, Signal, destructive, transformative. Here, it's all of those things - sometimes at the same time. Mostly though, it's the latter; Moore paints a dynamic landscape, always changing: the coming of agriculture, of metals, of Romans, Vikings, Normans... all have their place in Moore's narrative.

Where authors such as Edward Rutherfurd emphasise the continuity of a place in their historical works by following different generations of the same family, often in the middle of sweeping epochs, Moore structures his tale by always casting different, unrelated, individuals in every chapter and each personal story often occurs at the time of wider social change (the first chapters take the structure of the changes listed above). A sense of more gradual change, happening alongside the more obvious but superficial changes already mentioned is hinted at by the developing language used in each chapter. With each written from the first-person perspective of a different character, always in the present tense, the author builds from the Mesolithic simpleton quoted at the beginning of this review, in the first chapter, through successive generations of changing language - words change, develop, some disappear and others appear. You sense that the words are not just a means for expressing ideas but things which have a life of their own - separate from the people and inhabiting their own time-scale.

The characters and their stories re-appear in the tales of others. This might be why some GoodReads users have classified the book as fantasy, for my own part though, I prefer to see the book as straight historical fiction: the reappearance of characters and their happenings occur only in dreams and at times of madness and the characters who see them perceive them only in this context. That seems reasonable to me; it's clearly a manifestation of Moore's beliefs in the occult (hinted at more blatantly in a chapter featuring John Dee as an off-screen presence) but it's not fantastical per se. We know that they are ancient people and events - the protagonists do not and do not try to interpret them in this way. They're just dreams. The only other fantastic element is the monologue of the dead but, again, there is no interaction between the dead and the living - so in this sense it may be seen as the same situation reversed.

These lives (from the historic period onwards, all protagonists and events, save authorly embellishment, did occur), these tales, are points, glittering and flowing as they are pulled around and down through a vortex. Like in Cloud Atlas that structure is sign-posted by the author, whereas that felt patronising though, here I felt it merely honest: there was nothing of the smug reveal about it but rather the smile of a friend as he says 'you've caught me'. Why? Because of what lies at the heart of the vortex.

'Comitted to a present-day first-person narrative, there seems no other option save a personal appearance, which in turn demands a strictly documentary approach'

Such an ending could easily be egotistical but instead it's deftly handled and a perfect fit. As the author seeks inspiration to finish his book we pound the streets of Northampton with him - and we know it. The town comes alive for us both as it is and as it has been. Ultimately though, this final reveal is shown as the curtain, for this novel isn't about Northampton or even England - the star of the show isn't even the characters, it's history. History, as Moore says in this chapter, burns hot.

Gaiman wrote an introduction in this edition in which he states that this final chapter is already the perfect introduction to the book and I can see his point - the chapters could be read in almost any order but why go against the hot tide of history?
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Moore does for Northampton what he did for London in From Hell. He draws an arcane map of his hometown, accreting layer upon layer of time and circumstance. The book is composed of twelve stories, starting in 4000 BCE and ending in 1995. One of the tricks Moore uses in his work is "proving" connections between disparate things by using repeated themes. Here, as in From Hell, he uses actual historical figures, for the most part, as his characters. Or at least actual architectural and other artifa ...more
Aug 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for a difficult, yet unfulfilling read
Alan Moore is one of my favorite writers. His work on Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Superman, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman and many others have shaped my comic book reading tastes ever since I was a kid. To me Alan Moore is a magician of the field, figuratively and literally, a master of his craft able to spin wonderful tales with such finesse that you'll wonder through all the smokes and mirrors if his work is indeed magic. I guess what I'm trying to say in my long-winded way, is that I was v ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book took me a little longer than I thought to read, but it's Alan Moore. Moore isn't a walk in the park. For example, the first chapter. Oh God, the first chapter. It's not an easy read. However, have the first chapter, it becomes easier to read. Don't let the first chapter discourage you fro reading the rest of this book.

Voice of the Fire is a a novel set up similarly to Joyce's Dubliners. While the stories don't really connect, they are all in first person and they are all set in Northampton, Eng/>Voice
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've had this book on my shelf since 1996, when a friend tracked down a copy (this was when it was available only in the UK) and gave it to me for my birthday, knowing how much of a fan of Alan Moore I was/am. Yet I allowed nearly 15 years to pass before finally sitting down to read it. Though I can't say I regret this (it's not like I've been reading crap not worth my time this last decade and a half), I am eminently happy now to have finally read it.

More a collection of stories tha
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If one were to postulate that a book that has an introduction by Neil Gaiman is a work of genius and a mind-bending and expanding experience, then this book would be one data point that confirms the hypothesis.

It is hard to know how to classify this book. It is as if Cormac McCarthy set about to write a work of existentialism. The style can certainly make one think of Cormac -- the use of just-the-right word for whatever time period he is writing about (any century), the structure of
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Alan Moore may be best known for his comic book writing, "Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta" most notably, but his only
published "novel" (no comics in it) has always seemed like his ultimate tour de force.

"Voice of the Fire" is really like no other novel and you'll not hear people praising it as they do "Watchmen". Within
this book, however, is some of Moore's most magical, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring writing. It all takes place in the
same locale in Great Britain's Midlands (ne
Angela Slatter
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing writing; first chapter is a bit turgid and hard to get through, but it's worth sticking with it.
May 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book took me a LONG time to get into. I tried to read it once about 5 years ago, and only got into the 2nd or third story before I lost interest in it. Partly this is because the first story is very long (compared to the rest of the ones in the book), and extremely difficult to read. It's written in the manner of a brain-damaged adult living 3000 years ago, so I had to work hard to keep up with the tone and stream of consciousness style.

When I came back to this book in May, I fell into the
Mar 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Alan Moore describes "Voice of the Fire" as a novel but it really reads as a series of stories or novellas with thematic and geographic relationships. Starting in 4000 BC with nomads near what would become Northampton England and concluding in Northampton with a nonfiction narrative in 1995 it tells a number of dark, violent, supernatural, and perverse tales.

I was bother quite a bit by the 8 point serif type used. Very hard to read when tired. Cheap of them really.

Also no
Nick Burns
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
In many ways a precursor to the Moore’s masterpiece, Jerusalem, Voice of the Fire delivers a lot of the same themes and an almost-similar format, but with less success. Moore’s first literary take on Northampton’s history dredged up a sense of deja vu all throughout, but lacked some of the depth supplied by its successor; the final chapter felt like a condensed version of it, to be honest.

In any event, Voice of the Fire is a fantastic variety show, hopping through time from hunter/gatherer days
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
An examination of an English mind through several thematically and geographically interrelated first person stories. The first story is particularly hard going, along the lines of Hoban's Riddley Walker, but set in the past instead of the future. Once you get through the first, other stories are at turns poetic, frightening, and beautiful. The last story presents the Author ruminating in what was then the present day, 1995, over the work at hand and his life. At your own risk.
Dec 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
This novel, by the man who brought you the Watchmen comic, is below par.

It's a series of human stories threaded through time and loosely linked, all taking place in a single location. The novel is heavy on dark atmosphere (rasping black crows, inky blots of dark gutter water, skeletal trees, etc.) and very dark themes. (Multiple violent, imaginative murders, etc.)

It was so dark that every time I started a new linked story, my mind raced ahead to find the dark ending and so anticipat
Pandem Buckner
Nov 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
As big a fan as I am of Alan Moore's comics, I thought reading his novel would be just as thrilling an experience.

It wasn't.

To be honest, I couldn't even make it through the book's first section.

The story is ambitious - telling the history of a place from pre-historic times to the present through a series of vignettes that occurred on the site - and really, it should have been a great book. But in his ambition, Alan Moore overreached with the first part of the
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not an easy book. The beginning and ending chapters are tough. If you pick this up because you're a fan of "Watchmen", "V for Vendetta" or "From Hell", you will be a bit taken aback. This is not one of Moore's graphic novels.
This is the story of one place, Northhampton, through the past 6000 years. The stories take place throughout history and involve some historical figures and some everyday folk.
Yes, the first chapter told from the perspective of a very simple Neolithic boy with
'So, what's this book about, then?'
It's about the vital message that the stiff lips of decapitated men still shape; the testament of black and spectral dogs written in piss across our bad dreams. It's about raising the dead to tell us what they know. It is a bridge, a crossing-point, a worn spot in the curtain between our world and the underworld, between the mortar and the myth, fact and fiction, a threadbare gauze no thicker than a page. It's about the powerful glossolalia of witches and
Complex. A travel through time not space, from a nomadic boy duped at the start of our land's cultivation, to a stroll through the town with Alan Moore himself, touching on history as it (and at the end, we) goes. This is the first novel (as opposed to graphic novel) of his that I've read - it's possibly the only one he'd done, must look that up - but boy is it impressive. This book is dark, imaginative, deep as a pitch black well reflecting back the glimmer of a flame. Disolutioned Roman tax co ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, history
What Moore does here, stylistically, can be a bit jarring at first, and it certainly was difficult to break into this book in the beginning, as it were. However, the choices in language and the setup of the book is essential for creating the deeply haunting atmosphere of Moore's supernatural Northampton. The effect is to make sure that the reader is not at ease. This is unfamiliar (and unsafe) territory, but the narratives are woven together to allow an understanding of this world, this place, a ...more
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Okay...I have never read anything like this. The story follows 12 people's lives who lived in the same area of England (where the author lives) over a 6,000 year period. Each character has a distinct voice. The interesting chapter is the first where the story of a character from 4,000 BC is told. The character has no concept of tenses so he speaks in the present tense and cannot discern reality from dreams. I have a feeling I will learn more once I read it again.
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
12 short pieces with the theme of Northampton at the centre. First person narratives of various types, with blends of myth, history, and geography central themes. Excellent standard of writing throughout, and I look forward to re-reading this in the future.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some people might moan about the first chapter, but I don't think they really see this for what it really is... a challenge. And if you accept the challenge, as I have, Voice of the Fire will reward you for your persistence like no other novel in the market today. Highly recommended!
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the books I'll always have a copy of, the kind to read once a year.
Jun 07, 2016 added it
In the eighties and up to the mid-nineties, Alan Moore was a god. There wasn’t a comic out there that he worked on (Swamp Thing, Miracleman, Watchmen, V for Vendetta) that isn’t worth the reading and rereading.

Looking back twenty years later, his stories stand up and are still timely, topical, relevant, human, and interesting. The same can hardly be said for the era’s lesser authors. With the passage of time, Moore’s stuff became weirder, in some respects darker, but far less immedia
maya surya
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
10/10 would human sacrifice again

very, very, very good. I see reading the other reviews that a lot of people struggle with the first chapter-which is understandable, it's fantastic but not exactly an easy read-you can find annotations/translations which explain what's going on more clearly at https://alanmoorejerusalem.wordpress..... that website has annotations for all the stories in the novel, which provide a lot of valuable historical detail--would recommend referring to it often.

I really, really liked this b
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Where there's a will, there's a man using it to do his thinking for him!
as true today as it was 6,000 years ago! which is where we stop first in this magnificent vision of the times and happenings in the surroundings of the town of Northampton, in the late autumn/early winter months. lust, greed, death and injury, deformity, amputation, magick and the weather are all recurring themes through 12 interlinking tales set in 4,000b.c. to the time of writing (1995), with varying stops in between
Arthur Cravan
[Just wrote a review & lost it to a bad internet connection. This one won't be as long because now I'm in a bad mood.]
[End note: So, it was still pretty long. Not as long as the original. That one had more heart. This one is stewing... it reminds me of the Penguin in that Batman movie. Some speech about being treated like a second child or something. I don't know, I'm pretty sure those Batman movies were pretty crap last I saw them.]

More of a 3.5. Goddamn Goodreads. Why won
Richard Gray
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
For a long time I've suspect that Alan Moore is setting out to troll us. Having spent some time distancing his superhero fans from those who follow his more 'serious' work, his debut novel immediately sets out to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Moore does this through the first chapter in the volume, "Hob's Hog," told entirely in a first-person caveman speak that requires one's full concentration. It is one of the longer pieces too, or maybe it just feels long. Sample quote:
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Alan Moore is an English writer most famous for his influential work in comics, including the acclaimed graphic novels Watchmen, V for Vendetta and From Hell. He has also written a novel, Voice of the Fire, and performs "workings" (one-off performance art/spoken word pieces) with The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels, some of which have been released on CD.

As a comics writer, Moore is n
“... the most probable of all my theorems, is that life is ordered by the principles of some religion so peculiar and obscure it has no followers, and none may fathom it, nor know the rituals by which to court its favour.” 11 likes
“Above, great constellations wheeled to which our bonfire sparks ascended in their tiny mimicry” 6 likes
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