23 Aug 2015

Review - Simon by Michael Mullin

Title: Simon

Author: Michael Mullin

Rating: 4/5 stars


His father is dead. His mother has remarried. His uncle is . . . his new stepfather? When the ghost of Simon Elsinore's father returns and claims he was murdered by his own brother, the nineteen-year-old film student must determine what is true and exact the revenge his father demands.

I received an ebook copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

My thoughts:

To tell the truth I have my issues with modernized Shakespeare, but from time to time I pick up a book or watch a film adaptation that sets one of the Bard’s story in modern times just to see if I can take anything away from it. Very often I don’t like the whole setting, the whole atmosphere of these works, simply because I adore the mood that Shakespeare originally created so much, it’s hard for me to stop expecting it to be there.

Now what is extremely interesting in the case of Michael Mullin’s Simon is that my favourite thing about it was the alienation I experienced when reading it. I kept pushing the story away to a safe distance where I could look at it with an analytical eye without having to be a part of it.

When I became conscious of my withdrawing from the happenings in Simon I started thinking of its reason – you see, I never felt the need to ’keep away’ from Shakespeare’s Hamlet this way, I was always eager to brood over matters of life and death together with the Prince never feeling the weight of it… and ay, there’s the rub… Simon, being set in today’s America, in our time, made Hamlet’s story REAL.

Simon begins with the end: from the news we get to know a massacre happened in the suburbia of an American town. Isn’t it something we hear in the telly every day? Murders, massacres, mayhem. It is too familiar and too tangible. In Simon the safety that the distance in time provides in the case of Hamlet disappeared and it made me feel uneasy. It may sound a bit contradictory, but the need to distance myself from the events of Simon brought me closer to Hamlet and made me see it from a different light. I think if a retelling opens new, interesting, windows on the original work it is well worth reading.

The story is well known, but of course you can’t rewrite it in the 21th century without making certain changes. I think Mr. Mullin did a good job with the little bits that eventually made this old tale adjust to the present. I especially enjoyed the usage of media and technology. I felt the book wanted to put an emphasis on the shift in communication that took place between then and now (Hamlet’s time and today).

I liked how the film as medium was represented in the book. Inserting the grave-digging ’scene’ was a phenomenal idea. Speaking of grave digging… the metaphors and symbols were very strong in Simon, sharp even, which I loved. The depiction of the wedding/funeral got me hooked in the very beginning.

The reason why I didn’t give 5 stars to this novel was Simon. He didn’t strike me as a Hamlet figure despite him being the title character. For me there was too much doing and too little reflecting when it came to him. Maybe I missed something, but he didn’t seem deep enough for me.

All in all, the stars and – I hope – this review tells everything. Happy reading, Shakespeare geeks! 

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