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Here are the first tales of the albino sorcerer-prince Elric: lord of the Dreaming City, last Emperor of Melniboné, traitor, kinslayer. Doomed to wander the multiverse, battered by the whims of Law and Chaos, in thrall to his soul-eating sword, Stormbringer, Elric lies at the heart of Michael Moorcock’s extraordinary mythology of the Eternal Champion

I’d better start with a confession. The only work of Moorcock I’ve read, Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, I didn’t love. I just didn’t see it as a Who story as it contained too much Moorcock mythology that I didn’t connect with but  this new project I may change my mind and I’m tempted to read it again after I’ve understood him better and read the 1033 page The Cornelius Quartet, which contains the same (or similar) character of  Captain Cornelius.

Before entering The Michael Moorcock Collection (so called as Gollancz is trying to bring a vast amount of his work to print over a short space of time)  I needed to ask where to start? I tend to start at the beginning if it’s a series and if it isn’t a series well It’s not so hard with a debut author, or an author that has a couple of books as your options as limited, when you get to an author with a larger back catalogue, say Margaret Attwood, it’s trickier, but when you’re talking Michael Moorcock, now, that’s a different thing entirely. There are lots of entry points. Gollancz even wrote a ‘Reading List’ post after a little gentle persuasion. I could have started with Corum, I have The Cornelius Quartet, but Elric ‘the eternal champion’ was the character I most wanted to break:

Elric: An obvious one, this – Moorcock’s most famous creation, the albino prince with a melancholy air and a soul-sucking sword is one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy. Every anti-hero, every complicated loner, is built on Elric. Our new editions tell Elric’s story in the order in which it occurred (in fiction, not in publication), so the best place to start is probably Elric of Melniboné and other stories. There’s an argument for starting with Elric: Stormbringer! which contains perhaps the most famous of the Elric novels, but that isn’t out until March 2014.

So, I’m reading Elric in story order and this collection contains; Return of the Thin White Duke by Alan Moore, Putting a Tag on It, Master of Chaos, Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer, And so the Emperor Received His Education…: Elric of Melniboné, Aspects of Fantasy (I), Eric of Melniboné: Introduction to the 1986 Graphic Adaptation, El Cid and Elric: Under the Influence.

I could go thorough the stories one by one but that’s unfair to the flavour of this volume as it acts of an introduction to Elric, describes his beginnings and delves into the history of Melniboné and it makes me wonder if it was the right choice?

It wasn’t a bad choice but is a little disjointed if you’re looking for a pure escapist experience. Partly it’s because of the comic book script. It shows Moorcock has spent a lot of effort giving Elric a solid foundation. They tell the story of how Elric became King winning the throne from his cousin through as series of challenges in the dream realms but you’re not sure how dreamlike those experience are as they have connections to the present.

What does come across is that Moorcock wants to explore further than, say, the setting of middle-earth, which is on one plane of existence. Here we know that there are other dimensions and there are beings of Chaos and an eternal battle for balance being waged. Another this is that Chaos isn’t presented as something black. It isn’t exactly good but it’s not ‘evil’. So things have the potential be to get vert interesting.

To be honest I’m just not sure yet what to make of him as a hero or what ‘real’ adventures are going to be but I’m hoping that will change as Elric: The Fortress of the Pearl is a 224 page continuous adventure for the Pearl at the Heart of the World. And from the glimpses in Elric of Melniboné it has the potential to be quite an adventure.

5 Thoughts on “TMMC Review: Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock

  1. Of the Eternal Champion stories, I like the Hawkmoon and the Corum cycles the most. The Erekose ones are good too (he’s especially interesting, because he *remembers* his lives as Elric, Hawkmoon etc, which drives him kinda mad. Great stuff.

  2. Hawkmoon makes a decent starting point since it’s a self-contained narrative (involving a series of quests our Hero must go on to rid the world of a Great Evil) and more closely conforms to the typical model of Tolkien-esque fantasy with a beginning, a middle and an end. I think Hawkmoon is a less complex character than Elric – there’s a tendency for him to get overshadowed by his more colourful supporting cast imo – and compared to modern fantasy might seem a little simplistic but then the books were written in simpler times before the great generic fantasy booms of the ’70s & ’80s and, as mentioned, in three days a piece. Given the pace at which Moorcock churned them out I do think they continue to stand up remarkably well after four decades.

    Mind you, it’s probably worth holding off the second Hawkmoon omnibus (Count Brass) until you’ve got a few Elric, Corum and Erekosë books under your belt.

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