Michael Moorcock Essay - Critical Essays

Moorcock, Michael

Moorcock, Michael 1939–

Moorcock is an award-winning British writer and editor of fantasy and science fiction. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 45-48.)

He only does it to annoy. Or desires to make your flesh creep. Or tilts at windmills. Michael Moorcock does all those, and more. Reading him is rather like trying to drink tea from a sieve; one gains very little from the experiment….

[His] works are filled with merry pranks, japes and wheezes that appear to be aimed at entertaining nine-year-old mentalities, rather than saying anything of significance or that has not already been written.

Moorcock's writings should perhaps be taken in small doses, if at all. Certainly after a few pages this particular reviewer suffered mental indigestion. Presumably the fault is in me, for other reviewers have praised Mr Moorcock highly. This I can understand in part, for underneath all the baroque ornamentation in these books there is clear evidence of a considerable talent, struggling to express itself. (p. 80)

One must admire Mr Moorcock for his industry, although the sum of it all is, for me, a nothingness. Let us hope that soon he will avoid self-indulgence as a writer and produce a work that says something, for he clearly could do so, accepting the necessary discipline. (p. 81)

John Boland, in Books and Bookmen (© copyright John Boland 1972), October, 1972.

The Oak and the Ram has no claim whatever to be considered SF. [It is] "Volume the Second of the Chronicle of Prince Corum and the Silver Hand" ["Volume the First" was The Bull and the Spear] and hovers in a pastiche-like world of Beowulf, Arthurian romance and Celtic legend. All the characters seem to be kings or archdruids, and finding one's way through their names is like being lost with a Hebridean road map. The story itself is opaque, but seems to be about endless sword-fights in a damp climate. Oddly enough,… it is quite well written. But after a page or two the whole thing becomes a welter of dirks and stallions, baying hounds and the clash of byrnies. The lovely Medhbh wears a smock of blue samite and the grim stones of Craig Dôn resound to harps and war-axes. After 168 pages the great sword Retaliator is hung up to await the third volume. Frankly, the whole folksy, heroey, legendy, whimsy sub-Tolkien world should be loaded into a coracle and pushed off the Western Isles; it would not be long before the wailing died away. (p. 1377)

The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd., 1973; reproduced by permission), November 9, 1973.

["Breakfast in the Ruins," a] shrill, ambitious novel, will remind readers of "Candide" and "Mother Courage." Its pages are laden with caustics and ironies and parodies and bloody scenes of destruction. British writer Michael Moorcock, the author of some 40 books, is generally associated with science fiction. The present work is a dazzling historical fantasy with one glimpse into the future….

The rigid structuring of the chapters allows the reader to prepare for shocks, so the earlier chapters are the most effective…. But it is the author's poisonous imagination, sense of humor, and professional attack that propel the book forward. If you are looking to replenish your supply of hope for man, look elsewhere. This is meant to be scathing and it is. (p. 38)

John Deck, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 19, 1974.

I have never understood the cult of Michael Moorcock. I know he is very big in Notting Hill Gate among drugsters and students from Essex University, but I have remained untouched. This may well have been callow ignorance, since I was impressed by at least two thirds of The Sword and the Stallion. It opens emptily enough as Moorcock proceeds to embroider a banal little story about wars and rumours of wars with a diction which is unpronounceable but which must exist somewhere between Welsh, Icelandic and demotic Greek….

But, as soon as Moorcock forgets about his humanoids and their blank solial detail, the narrative takes off on a flight of consciousness which left me breathless if not bowed…. And when Moorcock goes in pursuit of his vision, his prose has a cadence and a simplicity which remind me of some of the more notorious passages of Malory….

I do not understand why Moorcock wants to bother himself and his readers with tales of battles and human passions when he can construct a prose of such imaginative strength. Malory was able to sustain it for some twenty books, and there is no reason why Moorcock should not devote himself to the rediscovery of those forbidding depths. (p. 182)

Peter Ackroyd, in The Spectator (© 1974 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), August 10, 1974.

The second in a projected three-volume series called "The Dancers at the End of Time," "The Hollow Lands" is buoyed up by the same agile imagination which made "An Alien Heat" such a splendid, sturdy bubble of science fiction. One such novel may appear from time to time, two are difficult, but three, when the third is issued, will be almost impossible. Yet one's confidence in Mr. Moorcock is strengthened with every page, for he is secure in his abilities and his "end of time" is a glittering, seductive environment. (p. lii)

Virginia Quarterly Review (copyright, 1975, by the Virginia Quarterly Review, The University of Virginia), Vol. 51, No. 2 (Spring, 1975).