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on 25 November 1998
Stateside: I read this bk a year ago after going to byzantine, preInternet, non-amazonuk lenghts to aquire a copy and it was well worth the long, tortuous wait. Moore is best known as the writer of several "graphic novels" ie long form comic books, including the recently concluded FROM HELL, an amazingly atmospheric tale about Whitechapel, London's occult and mythic psycho-architecture (with a nod to Ackroyd's HAWKSMOOR), and Jack the Ripper. FROM HELL joins MAUS as the "recent" twin pinacle achevements of what the comic book medium can accomplish when unfettered from its plascental spandex origins. This is Moore's first novel, and it has the same complexity and interconnectedness that his previous (and current) comics work displays. He's a great storyteller in any medium, it seems. VOICE OF THE FIRE is a "songline" of ten or so chapters, all set in the author's hometown of Northhampton from the stone age to the present day. It's a wildly impressive "shamanic" evocation of history - it really takes you away to other times, places, and most strikingly, other voices. The first chapter, "spoken" by a stone age half wit in a hypnotically inverted invented grammar, is worth the price of the admission on its own. Alluring, absorbing and at times, alarming...
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2016
Despite the insistent subtitle 'a novel', 'Voice of the Fire' is perhaps best described as a series of short stories: each tale works well in isolation, with the history of Northampton itself being the thread that unites the whole - there are echoes of theme and imagery (and even tiny character cameos), that enrich the collection, though don't expect any build to a traditional novelistic resolution (something Moore himself acknowledges, as he appears in first person in the book's final chapter). Not that this is to disparage the book: this is a fine collection of tales, mapping the liminal state between reality and the supernatural, the world we see and the world we don't (several stories feature either unreliable narrators, or narrators who misread their situation and find themselves undone). If there is an aspect here that people will find off-putting, it's the infamous opening tale: 'Hob's Hog' - one of the longest, and told in the voice of a stone age boy with a severely limited vocabulary, and no concept of untruths, or the difference between dream and reality. It is a struggle to read - but persevere with it, and you will find the book rewarding. Despite Neil Gaiman's assurance in the introduction that you can read the stories in any order, this tale really sets up the entire theme, and the book works best watching the layers of history build up from this point. Hard work to begin with, but put the effort in - it's worth it.
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on 13 January 2008
I'm a Northampton resident and Alan Moore is, in fact, an old friend of my dad's, so I speak from knowledge when I say that only Alan could have dmade Northampton this interesting. It's engrossing and intellegent and nicely wierd.
That said, the language is sometimes a little dense and he does let the wierd run away with him sometimes. It's not his best and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't read at least one of his more accessable books to get his style, but it is an excellent book.
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on 7 January 1999
Having long been an admirer of Alan Moore's graphic novel work I read Voice of the Fire with anticipation. Anyone familiar with his early work will find this book very rewarding as he uses the same style and structure of his other writing but for some reason it seems richer for being in a novel form. The language used in the book begins in a basic form of English and is as close as you can imagine to real language being used through the various periods of time.A great book and a thought provoking read.
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on 9 December 2014
As a bona-fide fan of Alan Moore's comics work I was really looking forward to seeing what the maestro could do with pure prose, and he doesn't dissapoint. Each of the twelve chapters in Voice of the Fire concerns a different individual at different eras of time within or near what will eventually become Northampton. Seperated by hundred of years apiece, the characters neverthless end up subtley linked to one another in surprising ways, and a strong supernatural current undercuts most of these chapters. November bonfires, angel language, spectral black dogs, severed heads and lame feet; these motifs occur again and again in ways that often end badly for our protagonists. The black dogs of English folklore - or 'shagfoals', as some of the characters know them - are an incredibly sinister presence throughout and work really well to tie the disparate elements together, as well as providing Moore with his rather serendipitous ending.

Besides the occasional cameos by previous, and sometimes future, characters in the chapters of others, my favourite element was the very faithful tailoring of the language in each chapter to the character concerned. No doubt this puts a lot of people off the book as the first (and longest) chapter is the idiosyncratic story of a mildly retarded hunter-gatherer at the end of the Stone Age; he experiences everything in the present tense with little understanding of past or future, making no distinction between dreams and reality; and his limited understanding and vocabulary often fail him when he encounters something new for the first time. It’s certainly a challenging read until your ‘ear’ attunes to the language, but then it becomes an extremely immersive experience, to the extent that I was absurdly disappointed when his chapter came to an end and I realised I wouldn’t get to spend any more time with him.

And that’s perhaps the one big frustration here, inevitable given the format – so many of these protagonists and their stories are compelling enough to support a whole novel on their own, but no sooner are we totally invested in their lives then we have to skip forward another hundred years. It’s to Moore’s credit, though, that he can create such engaging creations in so short a time. The final chapter concerns Alan Moore himself, coming to an end of his work on the very book we're reading and trying to find a satisfying ending. It's a fittingly brave or foolhardy close, depending on your point of view, for a novel that's going to utterly frustrate some and utterly enchant others.
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on 5 June 2001
I have to admit - Alan Moore is one of my favorite writers. In Voice of the Fire, it seems to me that he's off to prove, that he is as a "serious" writer.
Well, after "From Hell" even the most hard-nosed square intellectuals won't object to his status! Anyway, the Voice of the Fire is a truly masterful piece of work, but as a third novel it'll work much better. As a first, it's far too warped an introduction to Moore's prose.
Voice of the Fire begins in language that is devilishly clever - maybe even too clever. As it progresses, and we move through time a bit, the writing becomes clearer and the reader can appreciate some of Moore's great poetic language.
The story's great, but one has to dig a bit to find it in a fine, sometimes too fine prose.
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on 28 April 2013
I love Alan Moores Graphic Novels but it's a very, very long time since I haven't been able to finish a book. I could'nt finish this one, after skipping the first 20% because it was a horrible read. Really disappointed.
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on 19 March 2012
Having enjoyed Alan Moore's writing from the glory days of 2000AD onward, I was intrigued to discover he had actually written a complete novel. Some of the Amazon reviewers gave me pause before purchase, but I have to say I'm glad I did.

The book is a collection of linked short stories, set in or around Moore's hometown of Northampton and spanning a period between the Stone age and the late 1990s. Moore presents a great variety of memorable characters, including a simple-minded cave-boy, a Roman official, a pair of witches and a deeply untrustworthy underwear salesman. The brilliance of Moore's writing is that each of these characters has a very distinct voice and Moore seems to have an ear for idiom and syntax that makes each tale feel as though it really is a product of the time it's set in.

As others have commented above, the first tale 'Hob's Hog', is written in a difficult, first person present tense style, which, although absolutely necessary for the character, is a little heavy going. Stick with it though, because the book as a whole is a wonder to read and I certainly will be doing so again.
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on 30 October 2010
The first chapter was hard going but after that I found it to very well written and engrossing.
The " Roman" story and the "Spiv" stories were particularly good.
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on 21 March 2014
Every time I go to Northampton I have a copy of Voice of the Fire somewhere on my person, in case I ever bump into Alan Moore!

The novel is effectively 12 interlinked stories of varying lengths, spanning from pre-history to the mid-nineties, and all set roughly in the area of Northampton. Initially a difficult read with the first story being an elaborate exercise in language, the stories swirl around each other, interlink and share common motifs and themes.

Moore takes local landmarks and legends and constructs a web of mythology for his hometown that is both believable and immersive, weaving magic and the supernatural into the mundane to create one of the best things I will ever read. I think the main theme of Voice of the Fire is how our civilisation has suppressed spirituality, the supernatural and the people that involve themselves in these practices, and the harm it has done us. He also cleverly satirises religion by beginning with a story about a primitive shaman, and demonstrating throughout the 11 following stories how this effectively transitioned to modern Christianity.

The imagination that conceived this novel is staggering, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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