18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2012
How do you describe Swift's book? Is 'satire' adequate? Perhaps 'science fiction', as practiced by the likes of Zamyatin, Huxley and Orwell? That is, political satire which grotesquely projects a zeitgeist through distorting lenses. 'Gulliver's Travels' could be seen as the most scabrous and scattershot example of this genre, though disguised so well by the decorous and rather dull sensibilities of Lemuel Gulliver that it eventually came to be sold as a fantastic adventure story for children. No such fate will ever befall Martin Rowson's savage re-imagining and distillation of this masterpiece.
He brilliantly translates the themes of the original into contemporary (well, post-1997) collective madness, political, religious and scientific (his variations on the theme of the Struldbruggs through a Robert Winston-like geneticist is particularly inspired and hideous). Neo-liberalism is the target of most of the political satire here, in all its perversions, starting with New Labour Lilliputians and ending with the ultimate horror of the Randian psychosis which is currently throttling our world, explained through the Houyhnhnm's apologist as 'Pure Reason' (Objectivism). And I find Rowson's development of Brobdignag's story poignant as well as ingenious, with shades of 'The Immortals' by Borges and Hoban's 'Riddley Walker'.
All the manifestations of this madness are piled together in Rowson's obsessively detailed, scratchy artwork, which might have provoked a hair-shirt sensation in the viewer if it wasn't for the extravagance of imagination and wit displayed (every Guardian reader will laugh at the very brief, throwaway appearance of his Coalition caricatures).
Yes, this is very dark, but so was Swift's vision. Martin Rowson has stripped the book down to its tortured soul, which is a scream at the horror of mankind's folly and suffering.