When I said that this was a work of modern literature that changed my life, I was not exaggerating. This is a gripping piece of fiction that covers several generations of well developed characters. Set in an alternate reality, it describes how America of the 1980s might have been if things had been different starting in the 1930s.
The most important piece of information that I can give you for free is this ... buy a copy of this book and read it twice. Once you know what's going to happen, you'll notice the importance of early clues during the second reading. You'll see characters and action on pages where they were just part of background during the first reading. You'll see relationships between characters that you completely overlooked the first time.
Now, what was so life changing about this piece of fiction? The fact that the hero is psychotic ... a paranoid schizophrenic. But he's one of the Good Guys, and he has an admirable code of honor and a tenacity to his principles that is enviable. He's fruity as a nut-cake, but he does the Right Thing, and it made me wonder, would I have had his courage if I had been faced with his Ultimate Challenge?
Nah! I'd have gone to pieces so fast people would have been hit by the shrapnel.
I came away humbled, questioning every Major Decision I had made over the past few years and the impact that those decisions had upon those whose lives I touched at the time. More important, I came away more convinced than ever that no one is watching over those who watch over us ... just as the barber shaves himself, we each must watch our own backs.
As Rorschach said on October 28th, 1985 (recorded in the notes of Dr. Malcolm Long)
"This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces, It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It's us. Only us."
He also reminded me that just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean that someone isn't out to get you.
I guess the essence of the "costumed crusader" is that they are someone who does not think like "normal people". Cops seek out and confront the Forces of Evil because they are paid to do it ... somebody who puts on a mask and a cape to do it for free is not playing with the same deck of cards as the rest of us. A "masked vigilante" is someone who, for whatever reason, has decided to take the law into their own hands. While most will applaude their efforts while deploring their methods (operating "outside" of The Law), some raise the issue, "But who gave them the right to do that, and who's gonna pay for all the collateral damage they cause?"
Trust me, this is as deep as anything by Tolstoy and as well researched as anything by James Michener. A "Most Excellent" read.
See the REAL smiley-face crater on Mars, as published in a 1976 issue of Sky & Telescope!
For the definitive reference on the subject, try Watching the Detectives, An Internet Companion for Readers of Watchmen.
Other great resources are:
update: 2011-09-04 by
<Who is this "Dennette" person?>