The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Final Programme, first published in New Worlds magazine in 1965-1966, centers on the adventures in time of soldier of fortune Jerry Cornelius, his collaborator Miss Brunner, his shifty brother Frank, and his beloved sister Catherine. The novel is easy to read, linearly plotted, and full of traditional science-fiction elements. It tells the story of the clash between Jerry and Miss Brunner, a computer technician of enormous powers. Eventually the two get their computers and super-science formulas together in a womblike cave, where they merge themselves into a new hermaphrodite Messiah, destroyer/devourer of the world.

A Cure for Cancer, an “unconventional structure” according to Michael Moorcock himself, is a darker version of The Final Programme. Jerry reappears in 1970 as a black man with white hair who vampirizes those about him. In pursuit of his beloved sister Catherine, he goes to a strange Amerika and battles the loathsome Bishop Beesley who, together with Miss Brunner, metaphorically represents Moorcock’s idea of officialdom and life-denying orderliness. In contrast, Jerry and his cohorts represent a search for aesthetic harmony and love.

Many of the characters from the first two novels reappear in The English Assassin, in which Jerry’s story broadens and deepens. Retreating from the city and the 1970’s, Jerry spends most of the novel in a coffin as a turn-of-the-century romance of the British Empire at its hectic Jubilee peak flows around him. New characters appear, the two most important of whom are Una Persson, a stage singer, dancer, revolutionary, and lover to both Jerry and Catherine, and Mrs. Cornelius, a greedy, vulgar, sly, savage, indomitable, and wise Cockney survivor from an earlier twentieth century. Entropic decay of the British Empire becomes a mirror of Jerry’s decay in dehumanized London as the 1960’s turn into the sour 1970’s. The...

(The entire section is 795 words.)