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Second paragraph of third chapter of The Knight of the Swords:
Corum frowned and went to the cool water of the river to wash his face and hands. He paused, listening again. A thump. A rattle. A clank. He thought he heard a voice shouting further down the valley and he peered in that direction and thought he saw something moving.
Second paragraph of third chapter of The Queen of the Swords:
Just recently a small, trim schooner had beached on the sand and out of it had emerged a bright company, leading horses down makeshift gangplanks. Silks and steel flashed in the sunlight as the whole complement abandoned the craft, mounted its steeds and began to move inland.
Second paragraph of third chapter of The King of the Swords:
Corum felt the anger rising in his own head, shaking his body with its intensity. It was a relief at last to be able to vent it. With a chilling yell he rushed down the hill towards the attackers, his bright sword raised, Jhary behind him.
This trilogy, first published in 1971, is the first of two trilogies featuring Corum Jhaelen Irsei, one of the incarnations of Moorcock's Eternal Champion; the first and third volumes won the first two August Derleth Awards. I'm not super familiar with Moorcock's heroic fantasies; I did find it striking that he successfully takes the traditional storyline of chivalry, questing and manly derring-do, and underpins it with lashings of melancholy, destiny, and cosmic balance. Corum's own hand and eye are replaced by magical substitutes belonging to supernatural beings at an early stage, and this physical change also resonates through the three books. Also, unusually for Moorcock, he rooted a lot of the vocabulary in a real language, Cornish, which I felt gave it a bit more sub-surface coherence. I can't argue that it's terribly profound, but I did think it was well done.

This was the most popular unread book I had acquired in 2014. Next on that list is Toast, by Charles Stross.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
andrewducker
Dec. 1st, 2017 10:06 pm (UTC)
I loved a load of the Eternal Champion books as a teenager. The mixture of fantasy and mopiness really grabbed me.
johnny9fingers
Dec. 2nd, 2017 12:26 am (UTC)
I found Corum far less imaginative or meaningful the Dancers at the End of Time. Of Moorcock’s non Jerry Cornelius “Eternal Champion” books, I find only the original two Elric books (collections of long short stories iirc) to be really memorable. Moorcock wrote a couple of great comic detective novels, and he did try really hard with his serious fiction, but “The Condition of Muzak” is still his best and most ambitious novel.

Modernism really entered Science Fiction with the New Wave of whom, on this side of the pond, Ballard and Moorcock were probably the brightest stars. Though Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange” must be both the first to be Science Fiction, modernist, structurally interesting, and more importantly a crossover/spillover into the general intellectual culture, like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four before it.

If, of course, the troubling “Finnegan’s Wake” can be reclassified as Science Fiction, Joyce may have beaten them all to the punch.

But Condition of Muzak is readable and explores a narrative that is best told in its somewhat eccentric structure. (Much like Zelazny’s “Lord of Light”, which iirc mirrors both parts of the Rig Veda and the known life of Buddha.)

Next time you’re back in this parochial backwater of a racist with a small r state, let me know and I’ll buy you a pint and discuss, if you can bear it, that is.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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