Wednesday 1 December 2010

J.K Rowling, JJ Abrams and Claudio Sanchez: Epic visions, brilliantly realised

I caught Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One this weekend, which brought back to me how much I enjoyed reading J.K.Rowling’s novels.

J.K Rowling clearly has a fantastic imagination, and a gift with words. This was clear from the first novel, The Philosopher’s Stone, which was enough by itself to get many people (adults and children alike) hooked on the Harry Potter series. However I think it was only when the whole series was released that her greatest achievement became clear: the creation of a narrative that spans seven books, while each book is in itself a compelling self-contained story. Few authors, even the amongst world’s most celebrated, have attempted such a feat.

The process of producing an uber-narrative that is told in multiple parts has many challenges, but has in recent years lead to some brilliant creations. In television, the first series of 24 was ground-breaking not just in its real-time photography, but in the way the 24 consecutive episodes fitted together to tell a seamless story. JJ Abrams’ Lost has taken the epic-television-series even further, with six series (121 episodes) interweaving one major story arc with emotive details from each character’s back-story. The blend of genres - fantasy / sci-fi in the major arc and drama / tragedy in the back-stories - creates a powerful and suspenseful masterpiece.

In music, one of my favourite bands, Coheed and Cambria, have used the multi-part narrative to great effect. The multi-talented Claudio Sanchez used Coheed and Cambria the band to tell the story of “The Amory Wars” a science-fiction story that he originally conceived as a comic book. Each chapter of the Amory Wars corresponds to a Coheed and Cambria album, creating a five-album rock epic. Furthermore, after four albums were released the band famously played a four-day concert series, performing one album each day, an event called The Neverender.

I have gained much enjoyment from these works, but by their nature they have all come to an end. I look forward to discovering new epic sagas in the future, ones that are perhaps being written as I write these words now...

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