Blood - Michael Moorcock (1994)

Michael Moorcock is one of the three most influential fantasy writers of the last fifty or sixty years: Tolkien created the Epic Fantasy as we know it; Robert E. Howard gave us Conan and the archetypal barbarian; and Moorcock gave us Elric of Melniboné and defined the anti-hero. He proceeded to write a vast number of books, most of which are part of a giant, over-arching shared mythology. The upside of this is that there is a great deal of depth and texture to the various books and characters as each informs the other. The downside is that some of the books tend to blur together a bit when the parallels and similarities swamp the differences. Blood has most of the upside with little of the downside.

Jack Karaquazian, a gambler in a decaying alternate Earth slowly being eaten both literally and figuratively by Chaos, loses his lady love across the multiverse after making an error of judgement that resulted in the death and maiming of some innocents. He spends the rest of the book seeking first redemption in his own eyes and then his lady love in the dimension to which she had retreated. If you are a Moorcock fan, the common themes and ideas are already apparent to you - a flawed protaganist, harm to the innocents causing an existential crisis, and, of course, the conflict between Law and Chaos.

Moorcock is a beautiful writer. His prose is lucid and his imagery beautiful. In this book it is perhaps a bit more surreal and psychedelic than in many of his works, which lends it an uncommon lustre. Structurally the book alternates between Jack's story and the pulp adventures of the "Corsairs of the Second Ether." The two stories, seemingly unrelated, slowly but inevitable begin to merge. As they do, a meditation on the nature of narrative itself unfolds as fiction merges with fiction-within-fiction, as reality-as-defined-in-the-book collides with fiction-as-defined-within-the-book, books within books ...

(In an odd synchroncity, these are some of the same themes explored in Zeitgeist which I recently reviewed here.)

While not Moorcock's absolute best work, Blood is a fine book. Although part of a series, it stands alone and would serve as a decent introduction to those unfamiliar with Moorcock's work. (Although, tracking down the first Elric book would be even better.) For those who are familiar with Moorcock, Blood makes a fine addition to one's library.

Overall Grade: B+


Chad Cloman said...

I have to agree that once you've read the Elric books, then you've pretty much read everything Moorcock has published. I quit reading his stuff some time ago, for that very reason.

JB said...

Well, that's not exactly my point. Moorcock has such an extensive personal mythology that if you read a lot of his stuff a pretty cool synergistic effect occurs. I have a large Moorcock collection and like almost all of it a lot. The constant reworking of themes might not be for everyone but it can be rewarding.

Elric, of course, should be required reading for everyone:-)