Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss

I have to confess, I’ve read this book before. A lot. It has the rare distinction of being funny, easy to read, entertaining, cheeky, completely scandalous and well written. As I often do when buried under mountains of schoolwork, I have returned to an old favourite so that I may read something that isn't academic without feeling that I've resorted to trash and let myself go. It's not as if I've got far to go if I do happen to let myself, but if I crumbled completely under pressure I might think less of Me. How would I ever write scathing and ridiculous reviews and be an internet-know-it-all if I didn't think I was better than everybody else? I couldn't, that's how!

Anyway, this is a review, not a diary. Let's see the blurb:

A thrilling plunge into Edwardian Low-Life and High Society
The first recorded adventure of Lucifer Box Esq.- Portraitist,dandy, wit, rake...and His Majesty's most dashing secret agent
in which
He discovers who is killing Britain's most prominent vulcanologists
which tie goes best with a white carnation.

Okay, now. I bought this book in the airport when I was fourteen because the cover art is bloody amazing. Now, I have repeatedly flouted the old rule not to just a book by its etc, because nine times out of ten, if I love the cover art on a book, I really enjoy what's inside it as well. Even on the rare occasion that I don't, I've still got something nice to look at. So, on the plane as a fourteen year old, I found myself sort of falling in love with how ridiculous and tongue in cheek Mr. Box was. He loves himself, but often runs into trouble because he can't get over himself. Certain others have yet to learn such lessons. I hadn't yet, as a fourteen year old, read any of the Flashman novels, but I now have and love them just as much even though he is much less likeable. I also now catch a different reference to them on each reread of 'The Vesuvius Club'.

It's a bit of a mystery spy thing, so I can't do many plot revelations without giving the whole bloody thing away. It is very clever, and builds beautifully with a sub-story ending not quite in the way you'd expect. What I really like are the names. I have used Box as an online handle many times since reading this (MissBox, tehb0x, my name is just LuciferBox) and my livejournal name is also stolen from a minor character, Kitty Backlash. Her friend is called Abigail Frenzy, Box's sidekick is called Charlie Jackpot and his best friend is called Christopher Miracle his love interest is called Bella Pok (ohoho)...seriously, good names.

What I am going to talk about instead of being a big spoiler-face, is how awesome it is, offering...a trailer of quotes to keep you intrigued and amused. The humour is one of my main reasons for returning to it in times of stress. It is derived either from how much of a dick Lucifer is being, or from dreadful remarks made in the midst of an elegant diatribe that shock a laugh out of you. He is eloquent, but he is a rotter. (Something this book didn't do quite so well). I'll give a couple of examples to illustrate my point, non-spoilery of course.

Lucifer Box is in love with himself.

Exhibit A
"I snapped out of my reverie and peeped around the side of the canvas. I've been told I peep rather well."

"I...dabbed the corner of my full lipped mouth (it is a very pretty mouth-more of it later)."

Now, he may get away with this because he's so blatant about it and because he makes no apologies at all for being so damned narcissistic OR it might be because he really doesn't get away with everything and runs into trouble and it doesn't bother him in the least. I feel it necessary to defend my love of Mr. Box because I gave certain others such a terrible time for it, but it's probably because he acknowledges that he's a dick while still being actually not that terrible of a person for it. Notice I am talking about him as if he's a real man. Stop it. Shut up. I hate you.

In places scenes that could be really unpleasant are made ridiculous or absurd just by how Lucifer views them, making parts that are really gory and/or disgusting actually readable.

Exhibit B
On forensics: "It is not a pleasant thing to make a mould from a fellow's dead bonce..."

On opium addiction: "I love a pipe as much as the next man. But all things in moderation, as Genghis Kahn used to say.

'The Vesuvius Club' is (and I'm ashamed to say that this is mostly why I love it) downright filthy at times, but like all things in the book it's done with tongue firmly in cheek (oo-er) that it doesn't seem superfluous even though quite often it is. Given the recent scandal over the Holmes/Watson is it canon or isn't it debate, I'd advise anybody wanting detective-and-sidekick loving to look no further.

SO! To conclude. This book is extravagant, ridiculous, over the top, the main character is a pretentious, narcissistic sex mad ponce and I am completely in love with him and it. TO THE REVIEWS!

"Redolent of soft leather chairs in fine gentlemen's establishments and the cracking of whips in the basements beneath them. Perniciously addictive" Guardian

Ok, fine! Be all poetic and eloquent about it Guardian, see if I care! I'm gunna gush like a fan girl and talk about how awesome he is, you hint at finery and perversion in equal measure in a beautiful sentence. WHO CAN'T DO THAT? Pfft. W/e.

They're totally right and I hate them.

"Gatiss mixes in 'The League of Gentlemen's' penchant for horror with large doses of arch wit and louche laying about. It's Oscar Wilde crossed with H.P Lovecraft." Telegraph

Notice how I didn't even have to mention Gatiss' prior credits to sell the book? DIDJA NOTICE? They are right too. They know what's up.

"It's easy to imagine Oscar Wilde on a chaise longue, smoking an absurdly expensive cigarette, reading 'The Vesuvius Club' and laughing out loud at its playful decadence and wit. There can surely be no higher praise." The Literary Supplement

Pfft, 'no higher praise'. Clearly they have never considered a crazed blogger sitting on her bed and talking about how ttly ossum the book is to people on the internet. What's with the elegantly written reviews, people? Making me look bad by comparison and everything.

"The most delicious, depraved, inventive and hilarious literary debut I can think of...More, I want more!" Stephen Fry

Ok, now that Stephen Fry has said nice things, you have to go and buy it, so I may as well have just posted his review and had done. I also saved this review until last because there is more! Two more, actually. I am excited because I've only read the second one once and the third one not at all! I'm saving it so I can share my reaction with you, lovely lovelies that I love. Self restraint is not something with which I am well acquainted, so you should feel privileged or w/e.

I give it five-Mell-heads because I'm totally biased, it's amazing, and this is not a democracy.

P.S There is a graphic novel of 'The Vesuvius Club', to which I will only give 2 Mell-Heads. It is not as good and the art is not to my liking at all. There is a story, and then there is how you tell it.