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'Outsider' reviews

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  • 'Outsider' reviews

    No matter how much all of us here love Mike's work, his books are obviously not everyone's 'cup of tea' or main reading matter. I thought it would be interesting to post some of these reviews that turn up on various sites or blogs in a thread. Some people are pretty vocal in their dislike of Mike's fiction and I'm not intending this as a repository for really negative reviews, just a look at some alternative views of Mike's work. Here's a good example to start, a review of Elric of Melnibone:

    http://xicanti.livejournal.com/114725.html

    Maybe others can post reviews as they find them.
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

  • #2
    Originally posted by Marca View Post
    No matter how much all of us here love Mike's work, his books are obviously not everyone's 'cup of tea' or main reading matter. I thought it would be interesting to post some of these reviews that turn up on various sites or blogs in a thread. Some people are pretty vocal in their dislike of Mike's fiction and I'm not intending this as a repository for really negative reviews, just a look at some alternative views of Mike's work. Here's a good example to start, a review of Elric of Melnibone:

    http://xicanti.livejournal.com/114725.html

    Maybe others can post reviews as they find them.
    I don't really agree with it but it's fair enough. The review is trying to engage with the work and tries to dig a little deeper but isn't wow'ed by it. For me she hasn't go all there is to get, but that too is fine as a reader is under no responsibility to do so. I see the comments go on to discuss MM and Elric in more depth.
    Last edited by The English Assassin; 05-18-2009, 02:21 AM.
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    • #3
      I agree the review is a pretty balanced one by someone who hasn't quite 'got' Mike, neither gushing how Elric of Melniboné is the greatest work of fiction since God gave Moses the 10 Commandments () nor slating Mike as some reviewers on Amazon do.

      It's interesting how she says that Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore are huge fans of Mike's work (though in Alan's case it's more the Cornelius stories than Elric that appeal) so there must be something to it, but compared to the more recent (complex) fantasy she's familiar with she's just not seeing it. Not being at all familiar with post-80s fantasy I don't wonder if she doesn't have a point?

      Is '70s-era Elric a little 'tame' by today's standards? Does the way you read Elric affect your appreciation of it? What I mean is, I found Elric more enjoyable reading the stories in publication order than I did in chronological order, perhaps partly by the time you get to Elric of Melniboné you already know how the story's going to end in Stormbringer.
      _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
      _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
      _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
      _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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      • #4
        Originally posted by David Mosley View Post

        Is '70s-era Elric a little 'tame' by today's standards? Does the way you read Elric affect your appreciation of it? What I mean is, I found Elric more enjoyable reading the stories in publication order than I did in chronological order, perhaps partly by the time you get to Elric of Melniboné you already know how the story's going to end in Stormbringer.
        I'm not really up to date on modern fantasy but I think the early Elric tales might slightly be showing their age (but never tame), although not terribly so either. In fact almost all fiction dates to some extent and MM fiction was (and still is in many ways) ahead of its day.

        I'm not sure if the reading order matters or not. My first Elric story was Sailor on the Seas of Fate, which I think is probably the worst book to start with as enjoyment of it seems pretty reliant on being familiar with much of MM other work. Indeed even on rereading it a few years ago it didn't do much for me... Luckily I bought Bane of the Black Sword at the same time, which I loved and I didn't look back. I think I read the rest in a kind of random order, being dictated by what books were available at the time in my local WHS. Of what I think of as the original cycle of Elric stories I read Elric of Melnibone last as, for some reason, it was as rare as hens teeth in my home town at the time, so I had read Stormbringer before hand. I'm not sure if my enjoyment would really have been effected either way had I read EoM first. I don't think EoM is as good a novel as Stormbringer, but then few novels are... Hmmm... think about it I think publication order is probably better... just! Just don't read SotSoF first! Don't do it!
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        • #5
          I think I probably read TSotSoF first as well in the early '80s; TEA's right, EoM was seemingly OOP for ages around that time as Arrow lost the publication rights and Grafton/Granada waited to pick them up so I'd read everything else by the time it was in print again. Wasn't that impressed at the time either. TBotBS, of course, mostly contains those original early '60s Elric novellas (bar 'Dream of Earl Aubec', which is late '60s iirc) and it was those that re-fired my enthusiam for the albino prince of ruins when I re-read them a few years ago. I enjoyed EoM a lot more second time around btw.
          _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
          _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
          _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
          _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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          • #6
            Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
            TEA's right, EoM was seemingly OOP for ages around that time as Arrow lost the publication rights and Grafton/Granada waited to pick them up so I'd read everything else by the time it was in print again.
            Ahhh, thank you. That explains it! I found its scarcity quite frustrating at the time. Of course it wouldn't be such a problem today with the internet, but back then... grrrr... I think the only problem with EoM is the ending is kind of weak. I suppose that's a common problem with prequels in general maybe, although the first two thirds of it is outstanding.

            All this talking about Elric is firing me up to dip my toes back into the salty seas of the Young Kingdom again... (no that's not a euphemism for jail bait!)
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            • #7
              Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
              It's interesting how she says that Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore are huge fans of Mike's work (though in Alan's case it's more the Cornelius stories than Elric that appeal) so there must be something to it, but compared to the more recent (complex) fantasy she's familiar with she's just not seeing it. Not being at all familiar with post-80s fantasy I don't wonder if she doesn't have a point?

              Is '70s-era Elric a little 'tame' by today's standards? Does the way you read Elric affect your appreciation of it? What I mean is, I found Elric more enjoyable reading the stories in publication order than I did in chronological order, perhaps partly by the time you get to Elric of Melniboné you already know how the story's going to end in Stormbringer.
              I wouldn't concede her that point. Granted, all things show their age, but some things age more gracefully than others.

              I first read the Elric stories around the time I was into Gaiman, and I thought they had a kind of vitality that I wasn't finding in Gaiman's work. Oddly enough, I'd call it rather 'tame' compared to Elric! There's something a bit cozy about his writing, I don't know quite how to explain it. Maybe it's the style or the characterization. And perhaps in my mind, Gaiman is just too much a part of the 90s. Not really my cup of tea, in the end. I can still read Elric today, but I don't read Gaiman's work any more.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Her Sphinxness View Post

                I first read the Elric stories around the time I was into Gaiman, and I thought they had a kind of vitality that I wasn't finding in Gaiman's work. Oddly enough, I'd call it rather 'tame' compared to Elric! There's something a bit cozy about his writing, I don't know quite how to explain it. Maybe it's the style or the characterization. And perhaps in my mind, Gaiman is just too much a part of the 90s. Not really my cup of tea, in the end. I can still read Elric today, but I don't read Gaiman's work any more.
                I know exactly what you mean. I don't get NG popularity at all. There was something horribly politically correct about his Sandman comics. The early issues were great at the time but after a while it got tedious. I've only read Neverwhere of his novels and it seemed flimsy to me. The TV series was better but then I have much lower expectations with telly. I have to say that I'm not a particular fan of dark fantasy per se. Give me horror, yes! Give me fantasy, yes - even horrific fantasy, yes! But NG's style of right-on emo mystery nonsense does nothing for me. When Clive Barker dropped horror for the same dark fantasy cash cow he also turned rapidly into shit. All very derivative too. There's more than an element of this with some of China Mevillé's stuff too, which doesn't bode well...

                Yes compared to this Elric is still as fresh as a daisy!
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                • #9
                  The Knight of the Swords: the first British Fantasy award winner

                  The Knight of the Swords: the first British Fantasy award winner
                  guardian.co.uk blogs, UK

                  The Knight of the Swords: the first British Fantasy award winner

                  Kicking off our new series on the winners of the British Fantasy awards, the first in Michael Moorcock's Corum trilogy doesn't quite live up to the prolific author's mighty reputation

                  After Damien G Walter owned up to it last week, I'm going to come out and say it, too: I am a fantasy reader. I grew up on Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce and Ursula Le Guin. Then I lapsed for a while, until I fell in love with someone at university after we discovered a shared love of Douglas Hill, and he introduced me to the endless series of George RR Martin (great), Robin Hobb (loved her, especially Nighteyes the wolf), Stephen King's Dark Tower sequence (I liked it so much I bought them in hardback), Robert Jordan (tedious and confusing), Guy Gavriel Kay (brilliant), Stephen Donaldson, even the progressively crazier, more polemic, frankly dreadful Terry Goodkind. I ploughed through 12-book series – I like to know the ending – and yes, I have read the bizarro chicken sequence from Soul of the Fire.

                  But I have been feeling of late that my literary education in those authors (apart from Tolkien) who shaped the fantasy writers of today is sorely lacking. So, in the manner of Sam Jordison's manful slog through the Hugos, I'm going to tackle the winners of the British Fantasy awards, right from the beginning. (I chose the BFAs because they started in 1971, and the World Fantasy awards began four years later, but I may jump back and forth between the two prizes if one winner appears much more interesting than the other – suggestions welcome).

                  The BFAs were set up in honour of the recently deceased – and amazingly prolific – August Derleth, at the prompting of Ramsey Campbell, and are voted for by members of the British Fantasy Society. The first – and second – winner of the best novel award was Michael Moorcock, with the first novel in his Corum trilogy, The Knight of the Swords, taking the 1972 prize, and then the third, The
                  King of the Swords, winning the following year. I know Moorcock is held in great esteem by many – his novel Mother London made the Guardian's 1,000 novels to Read Before You Die list – but I've never read him or been particularly tempted to read him before, apart from a brief foray into Dorian Hawkmoon, because the concept of a brain-eating jewel made me laugh. He's also incredibly prolific, and the Corum books don't seem to have stood the test of time as well as much of his writing: unlike others in his Eternal Champion titles – Elric and Hawkmoon, for example – they've fallen out of print.

                  The Knight of the Swords starts well. I am very taken with the introduction: "In those days there were oceans of light and cities in the skies and wild flying beasts of bronze. There were herds of crimson cattle that roared and were taller than castles. There were shrill, viridian things that haunted bleak rivers." I am keen to meet these giant cows and am disappointed to discover they play no part in the novel, which is a classic quest story, following the adventure of Corum, last of his kind (they're called the Vadagh, but are basically elves) as he attempts to revenge himself on the barbaric Mabden, or men, who wiped out his race.

                  So far so generic, and there's enough "dosts" and "thees" and "caparisoned for wars" to try my patience, as Moorcock goes for a heroic tone. Corum is captured by the Mabden, has his hand cut off and his eye put out, is rescued by an annoying Wookie-like creature, who tells him "me friend of you", and then meets a beautiful human female, Rhalina, who falls in love with him in a flash. "Please, Corum. I believe that I love you," she tells him after about a second, and "they sank, again, into the sheets, making gentle love, learning of one another as only those truly in love may." Yuck. Rhalina is actually the most irritating part of the book, always bowing her head to commands and standing out of the way of danger – give me Alanna, Knight of Trebond any day.

                  But I think I'm being a little unfair. Yes, the quest story feels a bit hackneyed to me, but if you read Moorcock before the rest of the teaming reams of "inexperienced knight sets out on a mission to save the world" stories that followed, perhaps it wouldn't. And there are lots of good bits – Corum is given the hand and eye of two gods to replace his missing body parts, and the hand has a will of its own, sometimes leaping into action to kill off his friends, which I quite like. There's an excellent flying cat; I love the fact that Corum's quest brings him to this world for a bit in the third book; I enjoy Moorcock's idea of the different planes of existence; and there's a wonderfully surreal section when Corum travels to the lair of a god of chaos, who's so huge that humans scamper on him like lice. (Quick explanation: the forces of chaos and law are at war, Corum is on the side of law, the Mabden are on the side of chaos. Chaos initially sounded more fun, I thought, but we later learn it's actually not: if you support it, you turn into a weirdo half-animal thing and have to drink sour wine to cheer yourself up.)

                  When Moorcock's imagination really comes into play, this trilogy can be a fantastic read, providing the jarring faux-heroic language can be ignored (and his obsession with never saying a bad thing about his hero – there are lots of moments like this one, where a vaguely negative comment is quickly justified: "All through that morning Corum fought mechanically, though he fought well"). All three books in the trilogy are only 150-odd pages long, each one pitting Corum against a progressively more evil god of chaos, so I read the whole thing in one gulp. Although it was a relatively enjoyable, easy read, with deserts of blood and flying shark-things providing the leap into scary-weird that I require from my fantasy, I feel there must be much more to Moorcock or he wouldn't elicit such high praise ("He is the master storyteller of our time," says Angela Carter, who I love). Luckily – I hope – for me, there's much more of him to come in the BFAs, so perhaps I'll join his legions of adoring fans at a later date – if you've any thoughts about where might be better to start than Corum, they'd be very welcome.

                  Read orginal article at guardian.co.uk
                  Last edited by David Mosley; 07-13-2009, 07:54 AM.

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                  • #10
                    There are quite a few reviews here (you have to scroll down to near the bottom) -

                    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acad...authorm.html#m

                    They are for a blog, I believe (at least some of them) and he doesn't appear to be an out and out fan of Mike's work, but seems to appreciate a well told and well written story when he reads one.

                    Edit: I have to add; he may be a member here for all I know. http://simonsbookblog.blogspot.com/
                    Last edited by Governor of Rowe Island; 09-05-2009, 01:04 PM.
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                    • #11
                      Gaiman is clearly talented, but I find his stuff a tad lightweight for my tastes. I always found Sandman to be more like The Cure's fluffy hit singles rather than album tracks from First and Last and Always by The Sisters of Mercy (if you see what I mean). Goth-lite in the Tim Burton style instead of the weight of Poe.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Stephen_E_Andrews View Post
                        Gaiman is clearly talented, but I find his stuff a tad lightweight for my tastes. I always found Sandman to be more like The Cure's fluffy hit singles rather than album tracks from First and Last and Always by The Sisters of Mercy (if you see what I mean). Goth-lite in the Tim Burton style instead of the weight of Poe.
                        I agree, although I'd probably promote Gaimen up to Sisters of Mercy standard if arch-idiot Tim Burton is The Cure's poppy stuff, while I crave a bit of Bauhaus, Christian Death or Alien Sex Fiend for my spooky urban fix
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                        • #13
                          This is a definite outsider review.

                          The Modern Fantasy Diet

                          There's no denying that Moorcock has written some excellent heroic fantasy. The first few books in the Elric series, The First Chronicles of Corum and Gloriana (especially Gloriana) are all magnificent novels. Yet side-by-side with those fine works one must set the substandard epics he has been churning out in parallel since the 1960s, in which character names and settings change but essentially the same story is told, over and over again.

                          Given that he did invent Elric and Hawkmoon, it is regrettable that Moorcock's career in heroic fantasy is strewn with such rubbish as The Second Chronicles of Corum.
                          I think quite a few of us would argue the Second Corum Trilogy is even better than the first, if not a vast improvement on the Hawkmoon quartet in terms of craftsmanship and quality. But each to their own, I guess.
                          _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                          _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                          _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                          _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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                          • #14
                            Well, there is only Hawkmoon other than that, and doesn't that predate Corum? The Daker novels don't fit into any of that, either. And 'since the 70's'? Seems to me Mike stopped with all that IN the 70's. Alien Heat doesn't fit, much less 'Brothel in Rosenstrasse'.

                            Someone lend that man some books.

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                            • #15
                              ELRIC OF MELNIBONE by Michael Moorcock | Laura Navarre

                              ELRIC OF MELNIBONE by Michael Moorcock | Laura Navarre

                              I read the first three novellas (each about 100 pages long) in this well-known series about albino sorcerer Elric of Melnibone, the solitary and scholarly ...
                              www.lauranavarre.com/.../elric-melnibone-michael-moorcock...

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