Caught your attention, didn’t it, those about almost none of you who know who Michael Moorcock is. I have no idea of that’s true, actually, since all I have to go on is just about almost nothing I’ve ever read by him, being about two Elric books, one other Eternal Champion title (if I even did read it, which I’m not sure about, and even if I did, I don’t remember the title, or even which embodiment it was about), and the essay about how crappy Tolkien’s books are. Or something. And all that many, many years ago, except for one book and the essay.
Anyway. I just wanted to mention that, having read Elric of Melniboné, I’m not all that impressed. But that’s possibly an unfair criticism. It’s early work, and all like that. But I’m just not all that impressed. Here are a few reasons.
- It doesn’t really hang together, it’s more of a series of episodes. Which is more of an aesthetic preference than a real criticism.
- It’s uneven. By this I mean Elric begins with morals at odds with his cultural norms, and physically weak, frail, uncertain, and then–suddenly–he’s not, and then way, way later Moorcock seems to remember that Elric’s thing at the beginning was that he is different from how he spends most of the novel (or collection), and makes a hand-wavey attempt to reconcile the difference.
- The narrative voice is… intermittent. Sometimes the narrator is more-or-less Elric. Sometimes it’s some third-person omniscient. This might be to do with the edition being an early edition of an early collection of early stories.
- And, looking at it externally, I have to say that it just doesn’t seem to do what Moorcock claims he’s up to in terms of transgressive sword and sorcery stories. Though, again, this could be due to it being decades later now than it was when they first came out. Transegressiveness has a way of shifting the boundaries. I mean seriously. Look at the picture up there. Is this really transgressive and different from sword and sorcery? Nah. By the way, the Tunnel Under the Marsh which Leads to the Pulsing Cavern is pink, and fleshly, moist and huggy like something that expands and contracts around you as you wriggle through it.
So, go ahead and read your Moorcock, it’s fun. Really, this book was fun to read. It’s just not anything more than some fun fantasy in a distinctive voice.