Aaron's Reviews > The Filth

The Filth by Grant Morrison
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Sep 05, 2017

really liked it

Sorry, let me pull my head out of the wormhole this insane book shoved me into so I can try to review it. I feel like I've forgotten how the world works, like I'm coming down from some intense acid trip shot directly into my brain via Chris Weston's bananas art. I feel this way often after reading Morrison's stuff, but somehow The Filth takes the LSD cake. It's full-speed bonkers, delivering like 50 massive sci-fi ideas per page.

You have to read this methodically or you'll miss stuff. Weston jams each panel full of important additional information beyond Morrison's words, so if you're trying to breeze through this one, you'll be lost as hell. There were a few times I got lost and flipped back a few pages only to realize, yep, they explained this circumstance visually and I wasn't paying attention.

Now normally describing a book as "challenging" is not exactly a ringing endorsement, but in this the reward is well worth the investment. Morrison establishes such a rich world, brimming with the vilest villains and, well, vilest heroes imaginable, all in an effort to explore society's love of the disgusting and perverse. It's a meta-commentary on the media, existing simultaneously as a work that satirizes violence and sex in the arts as well as flagrantly using them to tell its own stories. It's both a damning indictment of our need for these things and exploration of the most depraved instances of them, all told via an extremely comic-booky sci-fi setup.

It's a little pointless to discuss the plot, since the plot isn't what's best about The Filth. Also, it's twisty and turny and constantly nuts, so it's better just to experience it for yourself. So, the general premise is, there's an impossibly, surrealistically top-secret organization called The Hand that functions as a kind of Men In Black-style group that works within the darkest depths of humanity to maintain the status quo at all costs. If anyone tries to disrupt the natural order of things, the day-to-day function of humanity, The Hand shows up to put them in their place. That's the basic entrypoint, and from there, things get weird as all hell.

There's a porn kingpin who tries to impregnate every woman in the world. There's a superhero (the world's first) who practices a form of "ultraviolent pacifism." There's a nanotech AI that attempts to replace humans' immune system with itself. This book moves FAST with the premises, and it barely gives you time to take them in before its started pushing them to their limits. It's seat-of-your-pants idea exploration, and it's kind of invigorating.

That's not to say it's perfect. The style is so dense here that it can be overly difficult to understand. For instance, one of the characters speaks in a nearly impossible to read dialect, making anything she says take twice as long as it should to make any sense. In an attempt to blur the lines between reality and the main character's potential madness, Morrison leans into some vague plotting and uses of time jumps that aren't made clear when they really should've been. Characters frequently talk about things in a manner that assumes everyone around them understands what they're talking about, and no one almost ever goes "Wait, what the hell is all this?" Pretty much everyone is weird in this world, even the supposed normal people, which means there's no real voice of reason or participant on behalf of the reader, so the whole thing feels about 5% more insane than it needs to.

But, I still found this deeply enjoyable and refreshing. It's clearly a followup of sorts to The Invisibles, which I also loved, and explores similar themes in a completely different way. This is one of my favorite Morrison books I've read, and really displays the kind of wacko shit I love to read from him. It pushes me to come up with sharper, more original ideas in my own writing, and that's a very good feeling.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Donovan (new)

Donovan Nice review. Glad to see a fellow Morrison fan. I'll definitely have to reread this to get more on the second read. The first was pretty overwhelming.


message 2: by Ill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ill D You said, "The style is so dense here that it can be overly difficult to understand."

Yeah, I found it difficult to understand after I vomited all over the pages because the story was so mind-mindbogglingly weird.


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