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My Moorcock Marathon *Spoilers*

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  • My Moorcock Marathon *Spoilers*

    City of the Beast/Lord of the Spiders/Masters of the Pit

    and

    The Wrecks of Time (New Worlds serialisation)

    Following on from my post in the 'Von Bek and the Blood Red Game' thread I finally (after 15+ years) read the Michael Kane trilogy while on holiday at the end of July/beginning of August. Taken individually they're decent page -turners that adhere quite strongly to Lester Dent's Master Plot Formula. As such, I would recommend them to anyone looking for examples of LDMPF in action.

    Of the three individual titles, the second is probably the most mis-named since the eponymous character of the title only turns up for one chapter roughly in the middle of the book before being dispatched. The original title - Blades of Mars - is no more descriptive of the actual themes of the book, but I guess it had to be called something.

    Speaking of themes, it seems to me that the central theme of the trilogy as a whole is 'Freedom vs Tyranny', with the scope of the theme widening with each book. As such, there's a progressive narrative that takes you through all three books, rather than just a repetition of the same events in each subsequent volume. The Kane trilogy shares much in common with the Elric and Corum series and their rejection of gods as shapers of human destiny. Men - or Martians in this case - should be allowed to follow their own destinies rather than be ruled by dictators.

    Stylistically, the books are quite simplistic; Michael Kane is a fairly typical square-jawed hero of the 1950s (although the books were written in the mid-60s) with few of the complexities of characters like Elric or Jerry Cornelius. He describes himself as a man of action rather than introspection though his background as a scientist is made good use of.

    Overall, I rate the series 7/10.

    Next, having managed to source copies of New Worlds #156-158 I set to re-reading The Wrecks of Time. I originally read this as The Rituals of Infinity in the mid-80s so naturally had forgotten completely what the story was about. I already had a copy of the Ace Double edition of Wrecks, but I really wanted to read it in the uncensored (unrevised?) original.

    This was the third of Mike's 'pure-SF' novels that I've read recently (that's The Shores of Death and The Sundered Worldsbut not the Kane Trilogy, which is still more fantasy than SF imo). Like the two previous novels Wrecks is also concerned with the extinction of the human race, and like TSW we also get a variation on the Multiverse, with the 15 simulations of the Earth that Prof. Faustaff strives to save. Other recognisable elements are the 'Principals' who share a godlike similarity with the beings that Renark & Asquiol encounter in TSW, as well as the eventual solution to the multiple Earths which mirrors the Sundered Worlds themselves.

    In reading these three novels in close succession, I noticed common themes and tropes appearing in both these and later novels, which emphasize the concept of the Multiverse and the Eternal Champion. Faustaff is opposed by Orelli and Steffelomeis (sp?) in a similar way to how Clovis Marca is set up against Andros Anders, or Hawkmoon by Baron Melidius, or Elric by Jagreen Lern or von Bek by Montsobier/von Minct/etc. On the other hand, perhaps it's just the nature of dramatic narrative to have two opposing dialectics, so maybe I'm reading too much intent into the texts?


    Faustaff himself is a decidely atypical incarnation of the Eternal Champion - if that's what he is - not least since at 20 stones he's more than a couple of clothes sizes away from Michael Kane's sleek atheletic warrior of Mars' physique. His pacifist attitude to violence also sets him apart from other ECs.

    Overall, I rate the novel 6.5/10.

    It's interesting that Mike is nowadays best known as a fantasy or literary author, when the majority his early (1960s) output was almost predominantly SF and it's easy to imagine how he might have had a different literary career had Elric not been so successful - and Mike not had a self-avowed adversion of SF in the first place.
    _"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."

  • #2
    Hi David. Did you enjoy going back into the NW format? I find it a completely different experience, for some reason. I tracked down and bought a copy of NW 166 for the original publication of Behold, the Man. Reading it in New Worlds was a different experience than reading the Mojo press anniversary edition (which has almost exactly the same text), and certainly different than the expanded A&B edition (for different reasons, of course).

    Maybe I feel like I am capturing a little piece of an era I missed...

    Just curious as to what you thought.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think there was a difference, but my main feeling with the NW serialisation was that because it was broken up into 'bite-size' chunks it didn't seem like there was as much to read. I don't know if I can really explain this, but some times when I've been reading for a while, I find I can 'step outside' the actual reading process and notice how many more pages I've got left to read. It kinda makes me feel like I'm running a marathon or something.

      With the NWs, I found there was more a sense of, "Ooh, only a few more pages to go", which somehow made the reading easier. I guess it's like saying "It's only forty pages, ah I'll read that in a couple of nights", whereas with a 200-page novel I'm thinking "This is going to take me a couple of weeks to get though".

      I don't expect other people to get this; I just know I'm a slower-than-average reader (possibly due to my dyslexia - I've measured myself against other people reading the same thing; they're turning pages when I'm only 2/3rds through the page). That's probably not the feeling your getting at though in your question, is it?
      _"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."

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks, David. I wasn't looking for a particular answer, but I wasn't expecting that one. None of my business, exactly, but I think it is very cool that you can work through your dyslexia so well. Kind of cool that you can thumb your nose at it with your book collection!

        I like having a "reading goal," too. When I'm reading for pleasure, I always but a bookmark at the point I want to reach. I seem to enjoy reading more when I do that, but I'm not sure why. It think it manages my reading in two ways: On one hand, large works seem far more easy to digest, and on the other hand, I won't read obsessively, getting so immersed in a book that I lose track of the world by reading indefinitely. It has happened...

        Comment


        • #5
          Tonight on the train going up to London for Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Blackwell event for Lost Girls*, I finally finished off The Winds of Limbo.

          Although it's taken me a while to finish it - I generally managed to read a chapter every couple of nights - I did enjoy it a lot. I felt it had lots of similarities with The Shores of Death to some degree and again it struck me that really throughout the '60s, with the exception of the Elric novellas for Science Fantasy, Mike was probably best known as an SF author, with books and serials like the two aforementioned titles, The Sundered Worlds, the Kane novels (which, if they have elements of fantasy, are still essentially SF novels), The Wrecks of Time (albeit published as by James Colvin), The Ice Schooner, The Final Programme, A Cure for Cancer, The Black Corridor and the Hawkmoon tetralogy (which again - like the Kane novels - are basically SF with some trappings of fantasy woven within them). It's more in the '70s, it seems to seems to me, that the more fantasy orientatated novels of Elric and Corum really cemented Mike's reputation as a Fantasy novelist, although series like The Dancers at the End of Time also remain resolutely SF in nature.

          Another thing I noted was Mike's tendancy to have significiant and important characters in his books who might be characterised as grotesques - Orlando Sharvis in The Shores of Death, Faustaff in The Wrecks of Time, and The Fireclown in The Winds of Limbo. Although Clovis Becker (ne Clovis Marca) and Alain von Bek (ne Alan Powys) are your more standard SF heroes in the former and latter tales, they are unavoidably upstaged by the larger-than-life Sharvis and Fireclown.

          Of course, all three novels also form the collection The Roads Between The Worlds, which suggests that there are connections between the three titles. All three deal with the threat of the 'End Of The World As We Know It', and TWoL and TSoD specifically deal with the nature of Fear and politics. I suspect that both novels probably tie in with the period when Mike was involved in Liberal politics - or at least not many years after.

          In summing up The Winds of Limbo, I would say it remains a book that is as relevant today in our post-9/11 world as it probably was in the post-Cuban Missile Crisis world it was originally published in.

          A sterling 7/10.

          Next up: I was tempted to go straight on to The Ice Schooner (as serialised in sf Impulse 9-11) but I think I'm actually going to go back a little and read the original NW serialised version of The Shores of Death, which is significantly different from the published novel.

          *And very, very good it was too. Apparently Alan only agreed to do this event because he enjoyed doing the Blackwell event with Mike in January (to promote The Vengeance of Rome) so much. So approx. 1000 people have Iain Sinclair to thank for not doing the Vanburgh Theatre event as originally intended.
          Last edited by David Mosley; 10-12-2006, 03:23 PM.
          _"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."

          Comment


          • #6
            Finished the New Worlds SF version of The Shores of Death t'other day. I can see why the original readers might have thought there was a third part coming, since the story does seem to just trail off at the end. The revised novel is a much more rounded story and of course does away with all the 'space-ache' malarky, but it is interesting to finally meet the 'bird-people' even though their agenda is more benign in the original.

            Overall, this version is more of a curiosity than an essential read. 5/10.

            Next up: Caribbean Crisis
            _"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."

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by David Mosley
              Next up: Caribbean Crisis
              ...which only took a couple of night (well, ok, three) for me to read. Surprisingly good I thought. Now obviously, this was 'New Order Sexton Blake' so not necessarily indicative of the majority of Blake stories, but nonetheless I enjoyed it, perhaps because - rather than despite - of the Ian Fleming/James Bond overtones. Being contemporary with Dr. No (the film rather than the book) I did find the characters, setting and story very familiar - that's familiar like a comfy cardigan, not familiar like I've heard/read it all before.

              Of course, knowing that there were at least three hands involved in it's writing - Mike's, Jim Cawthorn's and finally Bill Baker's - it's impossible to know how much of the final version is Mike's work. Clearly the last two or three chapters bear much evidence of Baker's anti-Communist rewriting, but for much of the book the anti-Nonales rebels, led by Juan Callas, are presented in a sympathetic light. I suppose that's because they're not strictly speaking communists, though whether that's because of how they were written by Mike or 'smoothed over' by Baker's polish is hard to judge.

              Being my first 'proper' Sexton Blake story - it's amusing how many of the letter writers call these books 'novels' - (if you don't count the 'Victor Drago' comics strips in Tornado) I found Blake to be a very attractive creation (as I say very much in the Bondian mould) even if the constant commenting of all the female characters as perfect embodiments of full-figured (ie busty) women comes across as slightly adolescent.

              As benefits a mystery story, the plots are well-executed and all loose ends are resolved in the final chapter. Overall as story in it's own right, I'd score this 8/10, but that drops to 6/10 when considered as a piece of Moorcockiana because its 'provenance' is so muddled.

              Happy to recommend the online version to anyone who's not read Caribbean Crisis yet.

              Next up: The Deep Fix (by 'James Colvin')
              _"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."

              Comment


              • #8
                And so the bulk of November has been taken up with reading The Deep Fix (as by 'James Colvin'). Outside of The Stealer of Souls this is the first collection of short stories by Mike that I've read as part of my 'Read All of Mike's Books in Order - more or less' project. As such, I'll address each story in turn.

                1) The Deep Fix - The title story and the longest in the collection, this novella sets the tone for what follows. TDF is a story that plays with realities, the reality of Lee Seward's hallucinomatic ravaged world and the alternative reality of the drug-induced M-A 19 world. In the former, Seward is basically presented as 'The Last (sane) Man on Earth', living in a fortified building much like Charton Heston in The Omega Man. In the latter, he is persued by The Man Without A Navel and his henchmen, who wish Seward to destory his own world. All the while, Seward works upon a means of undoing the harm that his halloucinamatics have done. In the end, a twist reveals that

                On the grounds that I didn't anticipate what the twist was this story succeeded well in my view.

                2) The twist in the second story - Peace on Earth - was more obvious although that didn't detract from the story itself. PoE was Mike's first professional sale (to John Carnell's New Worlds magazine) in 1959, and was co-written with Barrington Bayley (whose contribution goes uncredited here). It's the story of two formerly human immortals' search for something they feel is missing from their existance. Piecing together clues from the journal of the man who gave humanity immortality they eventually return to Earth, where they finally discover what they lacked.


                3) The Lovebeast is another apocalyptic tale of the end of the world (cf. TDF) and is basically about how desparate people can read things into the intentions of others that aren't there. I won't give away the twist here because it also plays with the reader's expectations of how the narrative will end. (Which is another way of say I didn't see it coming either.)

                4) The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius is probably the best known of the stories in this collection and, of course, was re-fashioned as a von Bek tale for it's inclusion in the Orion/White Wolf Eternal Champion omnibuses. Here in its original version, we are presented with another alternate Earth where real-life figures who walked the global stage - such as Bismarck, Hitler, Eva Braun, etc. - are relegated to more provincial parts. Part of the fun is spotting who some of the bit players are, while the actual 'murder mystery' is remarkable almost solely for the eventual identitification of the victim. Certainly the method by which the murder was commited became obvious to me long before it did to the investigator.

                5) The second longest story in the collection is The Real Life Mr Newman. As with TDF, this explores the idea of alternate realities, in this case the 'outer world' that the majority of people live in and the 'inner world', which is accessible only by a very select number of people. The two realities are somehow overlaid so that those who walk in the 'inner world' can see and touch those who only exist in the 'outer world' but not really interact with them. I suppose it's a bit like the opening scenes in Wim Wender's Wings of Desire, where the angels can observe the citizens of Berlin but not interfere in their lives, except the landscapes of the 'inner world' are altered to fit the psyches of it's citizens. London consists of grey cliffs, Paris all glittery crystalline structures, Berlin a fortified bunker, and so forth. The moral of the tale - that Fear makes people act against their best interests - is made starkly by the actions of one character when he takes Newman to Athens, where the inhabitants live in balance with the 'outer' and 'inner worlds'.

                6) The final tale in the collection, Wolf, is a first-person narrative of a murder. To be honest, I'm not sure I understand it or the point it's trying to make, so a rather unsatisfying conclusion to the collection.

                To sum up, most of the stories in the collection have twists in the tail and there are some thematic similarities in some of the stories. Of course, since all these stories have been reproduced elsewhere this specific collection is far from essential to all but the most hardened Moorcock collector. With the exception of the final story I enjoyed reading all of them, perhaps The Deep Fix most of all.

                6/10

                Next: The Final Programme. I was going to read the novel initially, but I think I'll start with the New Worlds serialization first and then move onto the novel latter.
                _"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."

                Comment


                • #9
                  books this month

                  Reading the Dreamthief's Daughter just now, can't put it down, I have the Skrayling Tree and the White Wolf's Son next, intend to reread Behold the Man as I haven't read it since the '70s, it was also adapted into a comic adaptation for Marvel's Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, drawn by Alex Nino and if I remember rightly kept quite true to the book, so I'm going to dig that one out as well. If the Skrayling Tree and White Wolf's son are as good as Dreamthief's Daughter, I'll have a lump in my throat when I finish reading them all.


                  , [Ok Emerson ...oot the motor !!!!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Books this month?
                    Firstly, The short story The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again. I only realised I had already read it, years ago, when I'd got a couple of pages in! I'd forgotten the victims identity so I enjoyed the story for the ending, as well as the Alternate Universe twist. Next up was The Jade Mans Eyes, the Flashing Swords 2 version, for my own interest, after the info gleaned from my first post on this site! That led me into Elric of Melnibone, closely followed by Sailor on the Seas of Fate. Then, to my horror, I realised that I need to get a copy of Wierd of the White Wolf. Aaargh! To fill in, while I'm waiting to pick it up in my local secondhand shop (or eBay). I picked up Stealer of Souls, which I'm in the middle of.
                    This is all since my first post re: TJME. I'm a very quick reader, I have a terrible tendency to scan lines, rather than read the individual words - a bad habit really! ( I often find myself going back over pages to pick up on things I missed). I realised that I desperately needed to re-acquaint myself with MMs stories because of the huge knowledge of the subject you all seem to have!
                    I told you I was enjoying this site.
                    David, I'd never have realised you have dyslexia! The quality and conciseness of your writing completely belies it. I am even more impressed than I already was, with all sincerity.
                    He's well smoked

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This month I have mostly been reading:

                      The Final Programme (New Worlds 153, 157, 160)
                      The Ice Schooner (sf Impulse 9-11)
                      The Eternal Champion (Science Fantasy #53)
                      The Final Programme (1968)


                      Reviews: ** Warning - Contains Spoilers **

                      The Ice Schooner - although serialised in sf Impulse as 'a shorter version of the book', this still feels like Moorcock's first 'proper' novel compared to his earlier 'quickies' (good though they are), perhaps because it was based on Conrad's novel, The Rescue. As many pages are spent describing the world of Moorcock's protagonist Konrad Arflane (doubtless in hommage to the earlier author) and the ships that sail across its icy plains as are devoted to its inhabitants. For someone who normally discourages 'world-building' in his novels, in The Ice Schooner very effectively brings the world alive to the reader. It's little wonder that Keith Roberts, who provided illustrations for the serialisation was inspired to write two stories also set in Arflane's environment. (It would also make a very good setting for an RPG if anyone was motivated to write one.)

                      Although most of the characters in the novel are given plausible motivations for their actions, I don't think its unfair to say that Moorcock still fails to make the sole female character in the novel - Ulrica Ulsenn - as three-dimensional as the men he writes about. Ulrica primarily functions as an of object of desire as she 'flits' back and forth between her husband and Arflane. Of course, the same point applies to many male writers of sf and fantasy, including Tolkien.

                      There is a strong female prescence in The Ice Schooner, but 'she' never appears 'on-stage': the Ice Mother, to whom both Arflane and the harpooner Urquart admit, to varying degrees, fealty. At the heart of the novel is a deconstruction of (religious) belief as Arflane seeks the court of the Ice Mother in the mythical New York, only to discover that all his most firmly-held beliefs (that Ice and Cold - ie Entropy - is the rightful fate of the world) are unravelled by the science of Peter Ballentine. Unable to accept the truth that the world is re-warming up after a full-scale nuclear war that accelerated the present ice age, Arflane decides to continue northwards to whatever Fate awaits him.

                      This is the first of four different versions of The Ice Schooner and I look forward to discovering how the later versions differ from this original one.

                      Rating: 8/10

                      The Eternal Champion - This is the 1962 novella version of the full-length novel published in 1971. As such it's a much truncated narrative, which results in great ocean voyages between continents lasting mere sentences. There's a sense in the latter half of the novella of events being described in broad brush strokes rather than the fine detail of the first half. The main interest in the story is how Erekose comes to realise that he has been summoned by xenophobic bigots to fight in their war against a peaceful and more honourable enemy. The eventual 'back story' of John Daker/Erekose is that he's condemned to remember all his various incarnations as the Eternal Champion because of a sin he commits. This 'sin' is (I think) normally held to be his genocide of the Human Race, but to my mind it's Erekose's breaking of his prior vow to exterminate the Eldren that results in his Fate.

                      As with many of Moorcock's females in the '60s, both the objects of Erekose's affections, the Human Iolinda and the Eldren Ermizhad, are idealised and romanticised characters, but since this a fantasy story that kind of goes with the territory.

                      Seeing how the story is expanded in the novel in a few months time will also be interesting.

                      Rating: 6/10

                      The Final Programme
                      - It was interesting to read the two different presentations of TFP this month. Two of the original three New Worlds stories (extracts) are plainly re-workings of the first two Elric novellas ('The Dreaming City' and 'While the Gods Laugh') but the first - 'Preliminary Data '- presents us with the (abbreviated) opening and conclusion of the main novel. It is with the portrayal of Miss Brunner that I think Moorcock perhaps first gives the reader a more well-rounded representation of a female character, some distance away from the more decorative and sterotypical fantasy females in his earlier writings. It is Miss Brunner who provides much - if not all - of the momentum in the stories/novel, with Jerry, despite being the nominal protagonist, having a much more passive-reactive role in the narrative.

                      Having finished TFP novel as 2006 comes to an end, I'm not too sure 'What's it all about, Jerry', to be honest. Miss Brunner builds a computer and then merges with Jerry Cornelius in order to destroy Humanity leaving Cornelius brunner as the sole 'human'? The title of the German edition of TFP - Miss Brunner's letztes Programm - is a less oblique title than the English original and helps make greater sense of the narrative. Jerry, as I say, is as much caught up in events as are the people to flock to follow Cornelius Brunner to their deaths.

                      I found myself wondering how Jerry managed to support himself since he doesn't appear to have any discernible source of income. He happens to have a number of houses, several cars, a Vickers helicopter and fuel dumps stashed all over Europe but what he actually does is something of a mystery. (In fact, you sort of see where the creators of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery got the idea from.)

                      Other aspects of the novel - made explicit in the NW stories but not in the novel - derive from Moorcock's earlier story 'The Deep Fix' (see previous posts), specifically Jerry's father's hallucinomats and the Man Without a Navel, who has a fleeting cameo. Even the name of the astronaut who's diary Jerry seeks in the re-telling of the Dead Gods' Book has echoes of 'The Real Life Mr Newman'.

                      That said, my attention was gripped while reading the novel and the fact that I often carried on reading beyond where I meant to I hope indicates that the book is 'a Good Read', as they say.

                      Again, as with The Ice Schooner', the novel was later revised to bring it in line with the subsequent Cornelius novels, and while some of the revisions may be fairly minor - i.e. Jerry's wife in the original, Maj-Britt, is renamed Una Persson in the revision - again I look forward to seeing how the two versions differ.

                      Rating: 7/10

                      Next month/year: Behold the Man (novella & novel)
                      Last edited by David Mosley; 01-01-2007, 01:18 AM.
                      _"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."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This month - oh, alright, in January - I was mostly reading:

                        Behold the Man (novella)
                        Behold the Man (1969)
                        The Chinese Agent (1970)
                        The Black Corridor (1969)

                        ** WARNING: Possible Spoilers **

                        Behold the Man
                        This can probably be called Mike's most "controversial" novel - controversial because it hypothesies that the historial Jesus was a congential idiot, and His place on the Cross was taken by a time traveller from the 'present' day/future. That doesn't mean it's in any way 'offensive', however, since BTM is a fiction and, as Mike has stated elsewhere, is specifically "about a struggle of conscience and belief" and demogogy rather an attack than Christianity itself. Reading both the novella and the novel back-to-back, I think I prefer the novella as the more 'focused' work, with most of the narrative dealing with Karl Glogauer's experiences in 1st Century AD Palestine, rather than the novel, which admittedly fleshes out why Karl is the way he is and prvides some explaination for why he behaves the way he does.

                        As a Christian, my biggest beef with Glogauer though is why he feels compelled to become a stand-in for Christ at all. Within the contextual narrative of the story, he effectively imposes a great Lie upon Humanity as we know it, and considering what we know of the history of Christianity - the persecution of the Jews, the Spanish Inquistion, the Conquistadors, etc. - without the 'Truth' that Christ was God and died for Mankind's sins, then despite all the admirable virtues in Christ's teachings, we would be better off without Christianity.

                        In that respect, I think, BTM is a great existential story, despite Karl's insistence that the Idea of Christ precedes Christ the Man, since it is in perpetulating the role of Christ that Karl eventually finds his own purpose in life. (Existentialism posits that 'experience precedes essence', that people are Nothing before they become Something.)

                        Novella - 8/10
                        Novel - 7/10

                        The Chinese Agent
                        This one I wasn't looking forward to at all. Read once before some 20-odd years ago it had left no impression on me that I could remember, so how good could it be? As it turned out, it could be very good indeed. I was somewhat startled just how highly enjoyable TCA actually is. It starts off with a bit of a slow-burn as we meet Arthur Hodgkiss (mistaken as the eponymous Chinese Agent although he's actually a jewel thief), who is planning to steal the Crown Jewels. Having been slipped secret documents in error, Hodgkiss becomes the target of both the British and Chinese Intelligence organisations as both Jerry Cornell and Kung Fu Tzu attempt to locate said plans.

                        The sheer joi d'vie of the novel comes from the confusions, misunderstandings and general accidents engendered by the characters. There's a great sequence where Hodgkiss attempts to steal a brooch from a stall in the Portobello Road and runs up against the Justice of the Market for his troubles. The stall-holders are present as this great tide of humanity, which Hodgkiss can no more withstand than Canute could hold back the sea. The book is filled with the most wonderful characters from the aforementioned Cornell and Kung Fu Tzu, to Shirley Withers, Mavis Ming, and to the other Cornells we encounter particularly the deliciously disgusting Uncle Edmond.

                        9/10

                        The Black Corridor
                        Having stumbled upn the Wikipedia summary of this novel, I'm clearly going to have to re-read this at some point, since I seem to have totally missed the point of the story. My take on TBC is that the novel begins with us being led to believe that Ryan (and his family/friends) has set out to escape a corrupt Earth for a new life on another planet, yet as we learn more about Ryan's personal backstory it becomes clear that he too is sick with corruption and instead of fleeing a dying Earth he is inescapably dragging his own corruption with him. Far from being the clear-thinking, pragmatic businessman/family man he percieves himself to be, Ryan is craven, paranoid, an adulterer and murderer.

                        In order to cope with hallucinations brought on by his solitary existence as the stolen spaceship travels through the void of space, the ship's computer prescribes a course of the drug MA-19 (first introduced in Mike's earlier novella The Deep Fix) to block them. However, within the meta-narrative of Mike's books, MA-19 is frequently shown as causing hallucinations and psychotic episodes in consumers, and accordingly in TBC Ryan starts hallucinating that his 'suspended' passengers are being revived by the computer. It seemed to me that the reader was being led to see two levels of Reality at this point - one is that Ryan thinks he is getting better and interacts with his companions (although his inherent paranoia means he soon suspects they are attempting to usurp and emasculate his position as leader), and another where Ryan's hallucinations continue despite - or because of - the effects of the MA-19.

                        The Wikipedia article, on the contrary, suggests that that either Ryan's passengers are already dead (murdered by his own hand), or there is in fact no spaceship at all and Ryan hasn't left his apartment. Perhaps all three readings are possible - and Mike does say that whatever meaning a reader finds in his books is the right one - or perhaps I've not noticed or understood the nuances contained in the story.

                        TBC is also, based on my attempt to read Mike's novels chronologically, his most sexually explicit book to date (ie 1970). We've had 'soft-focused' sex scences in earlier books such as The Ice Schooner, The Final Programme and even The Chinese Agent, but with TBC we start to get much more graphic descriptions of sex. This leads me to wonder how much of this is due to Mike and how much is Hilary Bailey's contribution. (Bailey was Mike's wife at the time and TBC is basically a collaborative work between them, although Hilary's contribution is mostly unacknowledged.) The narrative can be divided into two settings - on-board the spaceship and back on Earth. It would be possible for one person to be responsible for the first sequence and the other to create the second, but perhaps the collaboration was more complicated than that? It would be interesting to know.

                        Based on the thought that I may need to re-read this: 7/10
                        Last edited by David Mosley; 02-01-2007, 04:17 AM.
                        _"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."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by David Mosley

                          ** WARNING: Possible Spoilers **

                          Behold the Man
                          Some ideas to share, from me, too. This was one of the first of Mike's books I read (after Elric, I think). I read it when I was a believer, borrowing it from my friend who is now a far-right evangelical. BTM makes an impression on me every time I read it. I have given copies of it as gifts, and have a copy of its appearance in New Worlds, the MOJO edition, and the A&B novel. It means that much to me. (And I am a compulsive collector .)

                          Originally posted by David Mosley
                          This can probably be called Mike's most "controversial" novel - controversial because it hypothesies that the historial Jesus was a congential idiot, and His place on the Cross was taken by a time traveller from the 'present' day/future. That doesn't mean it's in any way 'offensive', however, since BTM is a fiction and, as Mike has stated elsewhere, is specifically "about a struggle of conscience and belief" and demogogy rather an attack than Christianity itself.
                          Mike notes in the afterword of the MOJO edition that it actually received many positive reviews in the Christian press. When I first read it (as a sixteen year old Christian) I was probably shocked more than I was offended. I had trouble imagining someone having the guts to write the story. Most importantly, I got its message. Maybe I needed it.

                          Originally posted by David Mosley
                          Reading both the novella and the novel back-to-back, I think I prefer the novella as the more 'focused' work, with most of the narrative dealing with Karl Glogauer's experiences in 1st Century AD Palestine, rather than the novel, which admittedly fleshes out why Karl is the way he is and prvides some explaination for why he behaves the way he does.
                          I agree. The novella is more streamlined, lending itself to a one-seating read. I find it most effective as a one-shot reading. The extra material in the novel is interesting, and is not wasted reading, but it somehow removes a little of the novella's potency.

                          Originally posted by David Mosley
                          As a Christian, my biggest beef with Glogauer though is why he feels compelled to become a stand-in for Christ at all. Within the contextual narrative of the story, he effectively imposes a great Lie upon Humanity as we know it, and considering what we know of the history of Christianity - the persecution of the Jews, the Spanish Inquistion, the Conquistadors, etc. - without the 'Truth' that Christ was God and died for Mankind's sins, then despite all the admirable virtues in Christ's teachings, we would be better off without Christianity.
                          I always felt that Karl admired the good in Christian ideals, which might disappear without a Christ figure. He admired the ideals enough that he chose to become the proxy Christ, even though he understood fully what evil humanity committed in the name of the ideals.

                          Originally posted by David Mosley
                          In that respect, I think, BTM is a great existential story, despite Karl's insistence that the Idea of Christ precedes Christ the Man, since it is in perpetulating the role of Christ that Karl eventually finds his own purpose in life. (Existentialism posits that 'experience precedes essence', that people are Nothing before they become Something.)
                          Very much so. Karl is a different existential figure than the ECs. He's an interesting contrast to Elric, in particular, as both try to understand the meanings of their actions (if there are any to be found) in the context and meaning of their lives.

                          Originally posted by David Mosley
                          Novella - 8/10
                          Novel - 7/10
                          I give them each one point higher than David.

                          Thanks for posting your thoughts, DM!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by David Mosley View Post
                            This leads me to wonder how much of this is due to Mike and how much is Hilary Bailey's contribution. (Bailey was Mike's wife at the time and TBC is basically a collaborative work between them, although Hilary's contribution is mostly unacknowledged.) The narrative can be divided into two settings - on-board the spaceship and back on Earth. It would be possible for one person to be responsible for the first sequence and the other to create the second, but perhaps the collaboration was more complicated than that? It would be interesting to know.
                            I'm sure you must have seen this David since your original post, but for those who haven't, here are Mike's comments on the collaborative nature of The Black Corridor, from an earlier thread on the book:

                            'What happened was that Hilary was writing a straight future disaster story -- collapse of society stuff -- but didn't get that far with it. I borrowed that for the scenes on Earth and rewrote it fairly heavily. All the scenes in the ship are mine. Many of the scenes back on Earth are Hilary's. That's why it was never presented as a regular collaboration.'
                            Last edited by Marca; 03-04-2007, 03:50 AM.
                            '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)

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                            • #15
                              This 'month' I've mostly been reading:

                              The Ice Schooner
                              The LSD Dossier
                              The Time Dweller


                              Reviews:
                              The Ice Schooner - Well, to be accurate, I was mostly reading this for at least two months. Perhaps it was because I'd read this last just before Christmas but it took much more effort to re-read this novel. To be honest, I'm not sure whether there's a great deal of difference between the sf Impulse serialization and the first novel, despite the former supposedly being a shorter version. Perhaps there was a line or two extra early on in the novel, but overall I'm pretty sure it was just the same. No real change to the rating I gave it earlier - although I might dock it a point for taking so long to get through it second time around.

                              The LSD Dossier
                              - I've already posted a review of this lost novel in the LSD Dossier Online Discussion thread, so that will stand for this one. Needlessly to say, as a fan of Fleming's James Bond novels, I found this immensely enjoyable, particularly the way it adhered to an established template of the Bond books (despite Mike saying he'd never read Fleming - or Len Deighton, with whose 'Harry Palmer' Nick Allard shares a few characteristics - when he wrote LSSD. Highly recommended.

                              The Time Dweller - First time I'd read this collection of short stories, although some of them previously appeared in the James Colvin collection, The Deep Fix. I think all the stories share a common theme of 'Searching', with most of the protagonists looking for something, either to fulfil them or to satisfy some other need.

                              The Time Dweller: I found this a very effective story, with a world setting painted in vivid brush strokes, so I was almost disappointed when it came to an end. I wanted to learn more about the Scar-Faced Brooder, his ability to manipulate Time and the dying Earth.

                              Escape from Evening: So it was good that this was a sequel to the titular story. Well, not a direct sequel as such, but an elaboration of the world of the dying Earth and Moon, which was mentioned as background in the former story. Whereas the Brooder was the focus of the first story, here it is Pepin Hunchback, a misfit who wishes to return to a Golden Age in Earth's history before it began to die, and the now older Brooder is a supporting figure in how Pepin comes to discover the truth of his dreams.

                              The Deep Fix
                              : See previous review.

                              The Golden Barge: A somewhat atypical piece of Moorcockiana being more Gothic than is common in Moorcock's writing to date, and possibly owing more than a touch to Mervyn Peake. Jephraim Tallow follows the Golden Barge, frequently just in sight, forever out of reach. Tallow is much more of an anti-hero than Elric ever was it seems to me, there is almost nothing in this brief vignette which is admirable or redeeming about the murderous Tallow. Nonetheless, it's easily read and whets the appetite for the longer 1958 novel of the same name, finally published in 1979.

                              Wolf: Last time I reviewed this for The Deep Fix collection, I said I was uncertain what the point was. Second time around (and bearing in mind the theme of this collection - as I see it) things begin to gel a little better. It's still not an easy story to get to grips with, but I think I appreciated it a little more this time.

                              Consuming Passion: This shares a similiar style to Wolf, being a first-person narrative from the pov of a criminal, but I found it more accessible. In many ways, the story is also atypical of '60s Moorcock being neither explicitly sf nor fantasy. The story of Pyro Jack is more like the origin story of a comicbook super-villain, and wouldn't be out of place in The Twilight Zone or even one of Tharg's Future Shocks tales in 2000AD. The denouement is a little predictable perhaps, but no less enjoyable.

                              The Ruins: Another short tale, this time about a man who may be subject to some malign experiment or perhaps just suffers from short-term memory loss. Maldoon explores an environment of ruins where the landscape seems malleable and untrustworthy. Upon reaching a town, in the morning he finds himself back in the ruins with no sense of how he go back there.

                              The Pleasure Gardens of Felipe Sagittarius: See previous review for The Deep Fix.

                              The Mountain
                              : Inspired by a real-life mountain climb that Moorcock made in Sweden with his friend David Harvey, when they decided to climb the easy face of Partefjallet, but Harvey misread the map and they ended up ascending via a more dangerous face. The story is a post-apocalyptic tale of the last two men on earth pursuing the last woman on earth. Needless to say - unlike it's real-life inspiration, it doesn't end happily.

                              In summary, The Time Dweller is a good collection of stories - some long, some short - that are all worth reading at least once, and a second reading doubtless pays dividends in time. 7/10

                              For May, I'll be reading another collection, The Singing Citadel.
                              Last edited by David Mosley; 06-04-2007, 12:26 AM.
                              _"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."

                              Comment

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