Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Revisiting Mike Moorcock

Gollancz is on a mission to publish the complete Michael Moorcock oeuvre, with the exception of those books—such as the Pyat quartet—that are still in circulation. This is my great opportunity to once again revisit one of my all-time favourite authors. I'm pre-ordering each volume the moment it appears on Amazon, and have so far received DAUGHTER OF DREAMS, DESTINY'S BROTHER, SON OF THE WOLF, CORUM: THE PRINCE IN THE SCARLET ROBE, CORUM: THE PRINCE WITH THE SILVER HAND, GLORIANA; OR, THE UNFULFILL'D QUEEN, HAWKMOON: THE HISTORY OF THE RUNESTAFF, HAWKMOON: COUNT BRASS, and will next week take delivery of ELRIC OF MELNIBONÉ AND OTHER STORIES.

I have to say, I don't much like the Gollancz covers. They're plain and boring, strike me as being rather cheaply produced, and make me long for all the old Mayflower editions that once lined my shelves. My god, I loved (and still do) those Bob Haberfield cover illustrations. They were unique and justifiably set Moorcock apart.

Anyway, back to the Gollancz editions. I'm reading them as they're delivered, so started with the ELRIC: THE MOONBEAM ROADS trilogy (DAUGHTER OF DREAMS, DESTINY'S BROTHER, and SON OF THE WOLF), none of which I'd read before. I have to take immediate issue with Gollancz's claim that "they will present the Elric stories in a consistent internal chronological order." Plainly, this isn't exactly the case. The trilogy most definitely does not occur at the beginning of Elric's saga. Gollancz has justified this by observing that Elric plays a relatively minor role in the three tales. This is true. So why call them ELRIC: THE MOONBEAM ROADS when the principal protagonists are the Von Beks? The publishing order doesn't fit into the Von Bek chronology either, as THE WAR HOUND AND THE WORLD'S PAIN and THE CITY IN THE AUTUMN STARS should come before them. Order-wise, I'd say these were certainly the wrong choice to kick off the "definitive Michael Moorcock" project.

If Gollancz are hoping to attract new readers to Moorcock's fantasy, then these were the wrong launch titles on that basis, too. Honestly, as much as I love and admire the guy, this isn't his best work. I found the first two rather confusing and, regrettably, a little tedious. Didn't enjoy them. The third was an improvement, but I still found it difficult to fully engage with it. The fact is, though I read them one after the other and finished last week, if you now ask me what they were about, I couldn't tell you.

Next up, CORUM: THE PRINCE IN THE SCARLET ROBE, which is the collected trilogy THE KNIGHT OF THE SWORDS, THE QUEEN OF THE SWORDS, and THE KING OF THE SWORDS—whose Haberfield covers I particularly liked—and now I remember why Michael Moorcock is so important to me.

As a matter of fact, these were the first Moorcocks I ever read. I must have been somewhere between 12 and 14 years old. I've read them once since, now a third time, and on all occasions they've completely hooked me. In them, I can easily identify what it is about Moorcock that has influenced me as a writer. AUDACIOUSNESS. Here we find gods of such vast size that humans are like ants beneath their feet; incomprehensibly powerful forces which, just as you're gasping at their sheer scale, are quickly outdone by even vaster entities. Yet, as you grapple with these concepts, its also apparent that Mike is writing about interior, psychological energies, too, so a sort of resonation occurs, rippling out from within the individual, into society and culture and politics, and beyond into the cosmic scale. Its brilliant and breathtaking and, most of all, FUN. It also explains why, to me, Haberfield's Hindu influenced covers were always the most appropriate.

I'm off to a convention in Poland tomorrow, and will take with me CORUM: THE PRINCE WITH THE SILVER HAND, which rather inexplicably is another one (or three: THE BULL AND THE SPEAR, THE OAK AND THE RAM and THE SWORD AND THE STALLION) that I've never read. Why, when I was so enamoured by the first Corum trilogy, did I never read the second? I've no idea. Most reviewers say it's not as good. As long as it's better than THE MOONBEAM ROADS.