Malorie Blackman has written over 50 books, including Pig Heart Boy (shortlisted for the Carnegie medal and made into a BAFTA-winning BBC serial), Hacker, The Stuff of Nightmares and the award winning Noughts and Crosses series. In 2005, she won the Eleanor Farjeon Award and in 2008 was honoured with an OBE for services to Children's Literature. Here Malorie writes about Garth Ennis's Chronicles of Wormwood (illustrated by Jacen Burrows).
Malorie Blackman on Chronicles of Wormwood by Garth Ennis
Chronicles of Wormwood is quite simply one of the most amusing, entertaining and provocative stories I've read over the last year. I enjoyed it immensely. Here's why.
Daniel Wormwood is the antichrist, the son of Satan who is determined not to follow in his father's footsteps. His best friend is a Rasta called Jay who we find out was injured in a protest march against injustice. A police baton applied to Jay's head has left him severely mentally disabled.
Wormwood is no saint. He has a girlfriend Maggie whom he adores but that doesn't stop him from hopping into bed with Joan of Arc (yes, you did read that right). The dubious charms of Ms Arc are shown in explicit graphic detail – and I do mean explicit.
Wormwood and his friend Jay take a road trip to Heaven, then to Hell. And what a trip. Some of the people and ideas presented in both places are thought-provoking and jaw-dropping. A suicide bomber does indeed make it to Heaven to spend all eternity with 72 virgins but the twist here made me laugh out loud. And a paedophile lawyer who has been active in ensuring that city orphanages are not closed down finds himself in Hell surrounded by children - but the twist in this instance is dagger sharp and truly chilling.
Danny Wormwood despises his father, but his father is determined to make sure that Wormwood brings about Armageddon the way he's supposed to, like a dutiful son. Danny's dilemma at the end of the story is beautifully told. Satan has finally out-manoeuvred his son and Danny finds himself between a rock and a hard place, or in this case between depriving the world of all hope and the desires of his best friend Jay. The conversation between Jay and Danny at this point is truly moving, indeed heartrending.
Wormwood is a graphic novel, illustrated by Jacen Burrows. In some people's minds graphic novels are synonymous with children's comics. Reading Wormwood should certainly convince them otherwise. This is a story that requires more than a little open-minded maturity to appreciate. But it rewards the reading. I've always loved graphic novels and think they are undervalued and underestimated by book reviewers and a large proportion of readers simply because they do employ illustration in the telling of the story. But to those who have never given graphic novels a chance, you don't know what you're missing.
What I loved about Chronicles of Wormwood was that I truly did not know as I was reading it where the story was going. It was totally unpredictable. Did I mention that the story features a sex-mad Aussie pope and a talking rabbit called Jimmy who is Wormwood's foul-mouthed good friend?
In one scene, a bartender insults Jay, so Wormwood swaps the bartender's nose for another, more usually private, part of his anatomy. And I'm sure you've guessed by now that Jay, the Rasta, is Jesus.
So add to this scenario a fair sprinkling of profanity, sexual shenanigans, plus a large helping of wit, originality and some very interesting things to say about religion and morality, and you have a book which will delight those who love to have their ideas and preconceptions challenged. But if you're easily offended, this book is definitely not for you. I loved it!