There is plenty of Brexit inspired fiction available. However, a smaller and perhaps more engaging subset of this fiction fad is the ‘exit’ of other nations from alliances due to economic stress. Often such stress is caused by a lack or diminishing of resources due to human causes like environmental degradation or politically motivated conflict (war) displacing millions of souls. We see in this kind of fiction a confluence of direct and indirect human action leading to not just immediate cataclysm but lasting, long-term upheaval throughout the natural and political world.
So when Alan Moore presents us with Bitten, a novel of the near(ish) future taking Italy as its setting we are primed to experience the effects of such dual calamity. Italy is currently a miasma of economic and cultural anxiety so it is not so much of a stretch for Moore to place his story there. However, Moore has woven maddening plot that pushes readers to the brink of patience. Italy’s exit from European Union a la Brexit is crouched in terms of sovereignty but is really about the nation’s collapsing economy that seems to double-down on the actions having brought it to this point as a solution. Unemployment, debt, and mass migration create the perfect storm for a classic literary villain–the mafia–to slink in to commit a brazen theft. Enter out protagonist, a British art expert Scott Spencer.
At a certain point, you have to wonder, why not just pick a genre? Political thriller, crime mystery, and, oddly enough, climate fiction. At various points throughout Bitten, Moore touches on all of these sub-genres. The danger, of course, is creating a narrative that is a jack of all trades and master of none. However, Moore is able to weave together these elements to create an engaging story at once embracing and shirking the conventions of the various sub-genres.
Bitten falls into the climate fiction sub-genre as while the novel’s thriller foreground story proceeds we see in the background a stirring discontent by Nature itself. Here Nature lashes out at its species which is doing the most damage to its itself and others. So while our protagonists deal with art thieves, crime lords, and political intrigue, Nature proceeds to unleash plagues–swarms to be precise. The question becomes for Spencer and others, how can any of this be not just explained but rolled back? And for readers, the pursuit is just how are the two connected.
The speculative element to Bitten nicely parallels its suspense narrative keeping the prose smooth yet fast paced. Readers will find Moore’s novel multi-layered and for those readers favoring the thriller genre (whether crime, mystery, or climate) there will be puzzles, stakes, and action galore.
Born in Surbiton, Surrey in 1944, Alan Moore lives in Barnes with his wife, Amber. They have two daughters and a son, who between them have two boys and two girls. Alan was educated at Oundle School in Northamptonshire and at London University, where, as an external student, he obtained a BA degree in English. Thereafter, for 25 years, he single-handedly ran his own book publishing company, which at one stage was producing up to twenty titles a year. Alan collects books and classical LP records, and he plays the piano and sketches. Alan, now approaching 74, is somewhat a late bloomer when it comes to having his book published but joins a small number of other authors who have produced first class debut works in their late years.
♦◊◊◊◊–1 Star: Poorly conceived and written, not worth anyone’s time
♦♦◊◊◊–2 Stars: Limited audience, mediocre writing
♦♦♦◊◊–3 Stars: Solid writing, decent ideas and execution, genre appropriate
♦♦♦♦◊–4 Stars: Good writing, engaging ideas and execution
♦♦♦♦♦–5 Stars: Superb writing, excellent ideas and execution, appealing to all audiences