My Modern Library hardcover edition of The Count of Monte Cristo is 1,462 pages long. I won't lie. But the book is divided into 117 chapters — a manageable average of about twelve pages apiece — and the plethora of plots, subplots, revelations, reversals, and tangential storylines make it more than just a page-turner. It's a golden eagle, soaring above the dry desert. In this metaphor, every grain of sand is a shorter yet much more boring book.
What I'm trying to say here is that I picked it up again and got a little bit caught up in the plot, and by the time I got to the end where in chapter after chapter Edmond triumphantly reveals his identity to his enemies, I was jumping out of my chair (only a little, I was in class).
In other words, I can't think of many books this engrossing. Nor are many books so rewarding.
But what significance, what modern relevance can we derive from this work? The thing is, the book has a very interesting and very definite morality. Here's where I'm getting to the point, in fact.
The foundation of Edmond's moral system is that it is his moral obligation to mete out absolute justice. In and of itself, this is not particularly new or strange. His methods merit a closer look, however: not satisfied to simply punish those on his list of evildoers by, say, killing them or poking them with (for instance) pokers, he intentionally limits himself to setting up situations in which these people punish themselves. He tempts them or allows them to expose themselves. They always have the option of acting righteously, but of course this isn't what they do, and so they are defeated.
This is very far from how we behave in our society. Where Edmond chose secrecy (except for that climactic doffing of the mask which inevitably causes the reader extreme pleasure) we prefer openness. In fact, openness is the key to our justice system. We believe that if we bring the truth to light and expose evildoers (with proofs, of course) then we can guarantee that justice will be done, at least most of the time, whether it be in a court of law or in the court of public opinion. Edmond did not live in a society where he could make that assumption.