I’ve been working my way through a book that’s just a bit over 1100 pages long. However, as I near the end of that epic journey, a book I had requested through the library became available. I set aside the massive tome yesterday to focus for a brief time on a graphic novel, V for Vendetta.

Some of you may be aware of the fact that the Wachowski brothers of The Matrix fame are making V for Vendetta into a movie. While the movie has been delayed into 2006, I decided to jump into the novel and see the original story for myself. V for Vendetta tells the story of an England set in the 1990’s (though, it really should have been set in the ever-so-common “not too distant future” to keep from dating itself so quickly). England has become a fascist state where all the Jews, homosexuals, blacks, Asians, and the like have been consigned to concentration camps. Those that are deemed pure enough to remain English citizens are subject to regular doses of fear, intimidation, and propaganda.

It is into this world that “Codename V,” as the character is known throughout the book, is thrust. V acts as an agent of change and his tools of choice are murder, explosions, and mayhem. It is V’s struggle against a totalitarian society that forms the framework of the book.

The story takes some shocking twists and turns, each of which seems natural and completely unforced. The book itself is told in a series of stories as the book is simply a collection of the original stories bound into one volume. Some of the stories are related as songs (complete with musical scores); others are told as rhyme; still others feature long stretches of action set to Shakespeare’s “MacBeth.” As you might guess, this book isn’t your run of the mill graphic novel.

While the action and story are interesting, the book is really a mouthpiece for the author’s politics. Politics and political theory form the backbone of many characters’ decisions. There is extensive discussion of how and why a supposedly educated and civilized people let such a society form. And, of course, there is discussion about how to best break-up and build anew that same rigid society. If you’re looking for a book that won’t challenge you while it entertains you, look elsewhere.

V for Vendetta now finds itself placed on my mental list of books that I would recommend to nearly anyone. Reading the book may spoil the movie, but there is so much information and philosophy in the book that I can’t imagine the movie will even begin to plumb its depths.