Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Review: The Rime of the Modern Mariner

The Rime of the Modern Mariner
Nick Hayes

'Deep in a polluted city, an officer worker escapes for a sandwich on a park bench. But his moments peace is shattered by a stranger - a seaman with a tale to tell...'

As a massive fan of Coleridge's original Rime of the Ancient Mariner I was so excited to find this in the library. Not only is it a modern adaptation but it is also in the form of a graphic novel. I've been meaning to explore graphic novels and this was a brilliant introduction that has made me a bit of an eager beaver to read more. Maus is next on my list.

The Rime of the Modern Mariner follows a similar structure to its original. The Mariner shoots down an albatross and brings what can only be described as a pretty nasty curse down on himself and the ship he's on. He's screwed, basically. Obviously because this is a modern adaptation there are key differences and quite a different theme of morality that revolves around nature, pollution and man's destruction of the natural world. It is beautiful and it makes you think (ah, the ideal).

I love that instead of the original wedding guest, the Mariner stops a divorcee. That just says everything about our society. That, and the fact that at the end the divorcee walks off to a 'world detached of consequence where he would not live for long'. Seriously the writing in this is sparse but breathtaking. Hynes even makes science sound poetic which is something I never thought could be possible.

'And saw we were surrounded by a wash of polythene. Swathes of polystyrene bobbed with tonnes of neoprene and polymethyl methacrylate stretched across the scene.'

It's not just the language that is spectacular, the visuals are impressive. I love the attention paid to typographic details and the muted colour scheme of black, grey, white and shades of blue.

I had a few thoughts whilst I was reading this about remaking or updating a classic and I decided that here it totally works. I think the Ancient Mariner lends itself to this sort of retelling and the sense of environmental doom that pervades the writing and the images makes it a thoroughly modern classic. To put it crudely, the moral of the poem (is that what it is?) is to take care of nature before there is no nature left. Let's do that, shall we?

'And like a negative of pure white milk spilt across the floor, a glossy thick petroleum slick drowned this watery moor.'

'At first it spat and pattered down in peppered punctuation but then it grew into a sluice of dense precipitation.'



  1. What a great idea, and I'm glad that it worked for you. The images look really good. I hadn't heard about this book before, thanks for sharing it.

    1. You're welcome. It is definitely worth a look, even if just for the images!


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