Thursday, November 04, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 82

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo (Penguin Classics)I can think of no character in all of literary history who is more obsessed, more driven than Edmond Dantes. Batman comes close.

You don't know who Edmond Dantes is?

Well, allow to offer up a brief synopsis (very brief) of the novel that is The Count of Monte Cristo.

Edmond Dantes, a successful young sailor, returns home to France in the early 19th Century with plans to wed the love of his life. Instead of the expected happiness, several of Edmond's friends have grown jealous of his life and go to the authorities to accuse Edmond of being a spy for Napoleon. Edmond is sent to prison, his life ruined and basically over. But in prison he makes friends with another inmate, an old man who tells Edmond of a secret treasure hidden away on the island of Monte Cristo. After the old inmate dies in prison, through some twists and turns Edmond manages to escape. Then he goes to the island and discovers this treasure, so huge it would make any kings of Europe envious. Soon a mysterious stranger, the Count of Mont Cristo, appears in Paris and begins to make the rounds as to "coming out in society." To give away more would be a disservice to the reader, but let's just say poor Edmond is no longer poor and goes to extremes to find his revenge against his old "friends."

Unlike most of the film versions I've seen of this tale, the novel does not have the happiest of endings. The tale is sort of a tragedy, but one in which the protagonist wins out, though finds that what he has won was perhaps not truly worth everything he went through to achieve it.

There are no simple endings here. The good guy doesn't win the girl and everything else. In other words, this is a lengthy, complicated tale that will make you think in the end. All the while giving you a darn fun reading experience. There's action to be found here, sword fights and the like, as well as intrigue and skulduggery. There's also a bit of comedy here and there, but out-and-out murder at times.

Most of Dumas' longer novels touch upon many facets of the human existence, and this one is no exception, though it is perhaps the darkest of his longer writings.

Up next: Scaramouche

1 comment:

David Barron said...

I remember as a young child reading the "Illustrated Classics Edition" (i.e. abridged to 200 pages, illustration on each facing page) and feeling, for the first time as a reader, that I had missed something. So I read the full book, and I'm almost certain that's the first full-length adult-readers book I ever read.

Still missed a lot of stuff, but at least I knew where to find it later.