Ruby Tombstone [With A Vengeance]'s Reviews > The Flame Alphabet

The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Mar 03, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, an-ill-wind-blows-no-minds, apocalypse-please, language-is-a-virus, biologys-a-bitch-baby, littry-fikshun
Recommended for: Anyone with a soul
Read from March 03 to April 07, 2012

This is an absolute fucking masterpiece and I loved every single page of it.

This book is gloriously written and incredibly dark - think Saramago's Blindness without the endless sentences, or Pontypool Changes Everything with a more linear narrative. The apocalyptic story elements alone would have made for a fulfilling novel, but here Marcus also explores issues of religion and religious persecution, family relationships, self-image, personal inaction, guilt and hope. And of course there's the theme of language, what it is and whether we can exist as people without it.

I found the character of Esther utterly compelling and believable - the sullen, self-absorbed, know-it-all daughter, driven to exercise her intellectual power and perceived moral superiority over others. I would love to have heard this story also told from Esther's perspective (oh please let there be some kind of follow-up project, oh please, oh please).

This is a story that stands up to lengthy and complex analysis, and I would like to think I will make the time to re-read this a few more times to really get my head around the issues. At the very least, I feel the need to talk it through with other people that have read it. It would make an ideal group read. As it is, knowing that I have yet to fully understand everything that I've read, I am still perfectly satisfied with the beautiful language and desolate imagery.

The following is an excerpt I've copied as a great example of what you can expect if you read this book. It's not a spoiler (it's from only a couple of pages in), but I'll use the spoiler feature to fold it up. I'm a sucker for good formatting.

(view spoiler)
10 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Flame Alphabet.
Sign In »

Quotes Ruby Liked

Ben Marcus
“Oh, don’t worry, I am perfectly aware of the fantasy involved here, but what we want is almost never exempt from the impossible. That barrier has very little meaning for me these days. Given what’s happened, the impossible is just a blind spot that dissolves if we move our heads fast enough. History seems to show that the impossible is probably the most likely thing of all.”
Ben Marcus, The Flame Alphabet

Ben Marcus
“Machineries of reason, machineries of conduct, machineries of virtue. The machine that regulates instinct, keeps one’s hands free of another man’s throat, free of one’s own. These machines have all, as someone said, gone too long in the elements. Gummed now, rusted, bloodless.
I forget who said it and I no longer care.”
Ben Marcus, The Flame Alphabet

Ben Marcus
“Suspense left my life a long time ago, now it has returned. I do not care for it.”
Ben Marcus, The Flame Alphabet

Reading Progress

3.0% "Chapter 1 starts off a little clunky, but Chapter 2 is gut-wrenchingly, beautifully written. NOW I'm excited to be reading this. " 1 comment
10.0% "I love this book. Should've been in bed two hours ago :)" 1 comment
27.0% "...and in book love (。♥‿♥。) (╯3╰) (◕‿-) ✖‿✖"
54.0% "I definitely wouldn't recommend this to anyone who's feeling a little depressed. Not unless you want them to slash their wrists! It's beautifully depressing though."
show 2 hidden updates…

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Matthew Hunter I've heard good things about this one Ruby. It's on my to-read list. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Marcus' latest work.

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] I'm already blown away by it. It reminds me quite a bit of Blindness by Saramago- but without the endless sentences!

Derek and it's short enough to help me get back on track for my reading challenge :-)

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] As long as you're reading it I'll be happy. I'd hate to have nobody to discuss this one with!

Dale Pearl Ok Ok let me scratch at least one book off of my list and I'll start reading it. The problem is I just start reading several books. I have just started reading George Martins of ice and fire and also a reread of the incarnations of immortality.I'll plop this on my kindle right now and maybe I will start on a chapter tonight.

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] You won't regret it. And now you also know why I haven't started any George Martin yet!

Dale Pearl I have to read more than one book at a time. I have always been that way. If I get to a slow point in one book I'll stop reading it for a time and if I get an action seen I'll race through the book. I typically try to keep 5 books going at a time but I have a tendency to binge read and after a sustained period of say 3 or 4 months I'll stop reading for about the same period of time. Right now me reading is being effected by the television: Walking Dead, A Game Of Thrones, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, etc...

message 8: by Melki (new) - added it

Melki Planning on reading this, so I did NOT read the spoiler. Though I am VERY curious...

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] It's definitely NOT a spoiler, I just used the spoiler code to avoid having a three page review. It's actually an excerpt from a couple of pages into the book. It doesn't tell you anything you don't know from the synopsis, so don't worry. I just wanted everyone to see how beautifully written it is :)

Matthew Hunter Awesome review Ruby! I read the non-spoiler and simply must move this to currently reading ASAP. Can't wait!

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] Definitely do that! I've set up a thread on the Apocalypse Whenever Group. There needs to be much pondering and discussion!

message 12: by Melki (new) - added it

Melki Okay, spoiler's been read! I like his writing style and the emotional state he creates. I'll definitely be reading this one.

message 13: by Dale (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dale Pearl Ok I have read the first two chapters so far. So let me get this straight there is a plague that effects people when they speak? An audible virus? I'm trying to grasp on to the realization possibilities of this one and I am only coming up with air so far.

message 14: by Ruby (last edited Apr 15, 2012 03:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] That's essentially it, but it goes farther than that. This virus covers all forms of communication. The book, Pontypool Changes Everything also has a language virus. In that book (and film) it's about language only. I love both of these books. There are so many fascinating theories that open up when you really think the ideas through. I'm a sucker for semiotics and linguistics - I would really love to study them some time.

Riona this sounds really good! on the to-read shelf it goes...

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] Riona wrote: "this sounds really good! on the to-read shelf it goes..."

It's pretty amazing. Definitely one of my all-time favourites.

Matthew Hunter Hi Ruby. I finished "The Flame Alphabet" last night. Could not agree more with your 5 star rating! It's now on my fave list. And your review makes me want to read "Pontypool" and "Blindness" as soon as possible. Ben Marcus! I had no idea.

Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance] Fantastic! I'm so glad you enjoyed it too. I hadn't heard of Ben Marcus before this either, but I'm keen to check out his other stuff. I have heard that The Flame Alphabet is the most straightforward of his novels though, so I hope I can wrap my head around the others!

back to top