Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Flash for Freedom - a few brief words to begin

I did this for Flashman and Royal Flash, I liked writing them and it kind of got me in the mood to read the books, so I’ll stick with it for Flash for Freedom. There’s not as much background needed as was for the other two, but I can still find things to point out. This was the first Flashman book where George MacDonald Fraser could branch out and break away from what he’d done before. It’s also Harry doing something largely on his own. What he did in Flashman was his duty, or attempt to do his duty, and Royal Flash was because he was being forced to impersonate Prince Carl Gustaf by Bismarck and his bully boys. In Flash for Freedom he’s certainly not a willing participant, but he’s largely dropped into things and forced to keep himself alive and get back to England. That last thing is a common theme through nearly all of the books, Flashman is always trying to get back to England and Elspeth, it’s like he see the two things as safe, which to him in many ways, they are.

Flash for Freedom is also the first time Harry goes to the United States, he returns there for other adventures after, George MacDonald Fraser seems to have a good deal of affection for the US, and as always his research is impeccable. I think he tended to like wherever he set the adventures, because you couldn’t do that amount of research and write the books without such a sense of irreverent fun without being somewhat fond of your setting and situation.

I’ve never liked the title. The titles work much better when they’re Flashman and the… or Flashman in the…, etc… This was the last time they got clever with the titles. It does sound really clunky and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Royal Flash was a rather clever play on words and directly referenced the content of the book. Okay, Flash for Freedom deals with slavery, but it doesn’t really convey an awful lot. I’m not sure what an alternative title that wouldn’t offend people may have been, given the sensitive nature of the content, but I’m sure the marketing department of the publisher could have come up with something better than what eventually came out.

It’s the first of the books that actually ends on a cliffhanger, seriously it does. I’m damn glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, because Fraser left readers hanging for 3 books and a few years before he wrote the packet that directly follows Flash for Freedom. Evil, evil man!

If no one’s worked this out I’m a Joss Whedon fan, and I will occasionally use Jossisms here. I said that to explain the next little bit. The Flashman’s don’t really contain a single bad guy as such. It’s generally whoever is trying to kill Harry, and he certainly knows how to get people’s backs up. Villains don’t often appear for more than one book at a time, although there is an exception to this in Flashman at the Charge and Flashman in the Great Game. Flash for Freedom contains the first appearance of a character who in 'Joss speak' is the series’ equivalent of a ‘big bad’. I shall say no more until I get to the introduction of said character, but you have been warned.

This is also where you first run into issues with publication order versus chronological order. Flash for Freedom picks up where Royal Flash left off, but to be strictly chronological you should read Flashman's Lady and Flashman and the Mountain of Light, which cover the years in between the first part of Royal Flash and the final two thirds.

That’s about all I can really come up with, join me tomorrow when the fun really begins!

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