Showing posts with label Michael Moorcock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michael Moorcock. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The Eternal Champion #02 - The Silver Warriors (aka Phoenix in Obsidian)

Michael Moorcock is a highly respected and admired science-fiction and fantasy author. His Elric Saga influenced dozens of genre authors, comic writers, and even rock bands. But, Moorcock also authored a number of other series titles that connect to the Elric Saga's robust multiverse. You can enjoy these series titles without reading Elric, but at some point you'll find the connection if you read enough. The Eternal Champion trilogy is one of those connecting titles. The trilogy, often called the Erekose series, began in Science Fantasy #53 in 1962, and then published by Dell in 1970. Its sequel, also published in 1970, is Phoenix in Obsidian. In 1973, the book was published by Dell in paperback as The Silver Warriors, with artwork by Frank Frazetta. 

The premise of most of Moorcock's fantasy novels is a special blade called the Black Sword. The sword desires blood and often can possess the one who wields it. The blade is the master, the swordsman the slave. Throughout time, whether there really is time, a hero is summoned to use the sword to fight for a cause. These heroes are incarnations of the Eternal Champ, and range from Elric to Hawkmoon and other characters. The Eternal Champions trilogy focuses on the hero of Erekose, who is flung from his time when someone, or something, summons him. 

In the book's opening pages, Erekose is summoned as the Eternal Champion again, this time as Urlik Skarsdol, a warrior of the Southern Ice. Urlik finds he is in a far flung future of a dying Earth, a frosty ice-world that now faces its final years. On a sled pulled by polar bears, Urlik takes a wrong turn and ends up on Rowernarc where he meets Bishop Belphig (bad guy) and Lord Shanosfane (good guy). 

In a humorous exchange, Urlik, knowing if he has been summoned it is surely to battle something, questions why he is in Rowernarc. Belphig and Shanosfane both advise him that they didn't summon him. Urlik then asks if anyone is out to dethrone or assassinate them, is there a plot emerging to overthrow the king, is there a rebellion to thwart? The answer is always no, so Urlik begins to think he was summoned by mistake. 

Eventually, the plot begins to take shape and Urlik is betrayed by Belphig and left to die on a glacier. He is saved by a race of people called The Silver Warriors, and the narrative begins to focus on Urlik's true calling. The Black Sword, really appearing as The Cold Sword, is introduced and Urlik has his destiny to face – take up the sword and try to control its powerful persuasion to slaughter or attempt to stop Belphig using another, safer means. The central element to Moorcock's writing is always this inner turmoil that helps elevate the story into something meaningful and wrought with emotion. 

The Silver Warriors, or Phoenix in Obsidian, is another remarkable novel by Michael Moorcock that is chock-full of action, adventure, fantasy, and sorcery. Whether you are brand new to the Eternal Champion mythos or a longtime fan, this book is a mandatory read. It also introduces a rare comical twist that I felt made it unique. Highest possible recommendation. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Elric Saga #01 - Elric of Melnibone

Like a lot of the critically praised books we review here at Paperback Warrior, Elric of Melnibone can lead anyone down their own rabbit hole researching the novel, series, and grand mythos associated with the character. Elric first appeared in Michael Moorcock's novella “The Dreaming City”, published in Science Fantasy in June, 1961. More Elric stories and novellas were published through the early to mid-1960s in Science Fantasy

Moorcock's desired reading order for fans to fully grasp the Elric Saga begins with the first full-length novel to feature the character, Elric Of Melnibone. It was published in the UK in 1972 by Hutchinson. It was published by Lancer the same year under the title The Dreaming City. The most collectible, and arguably desirable, publications of the novel is DAW's 1976 paperback version, Elric of Melnibone, with incredible cover art by Michael Whelan. This review is based on the version that is included in Gallery/Saga Press's The Elric Saga Vol. 1, a 2022 hardcover omnibus that collects the series first three full-length paperbacks and a foreword by Neil Gaiman. This omnibus is also presented as an audio book narrated by the incredible voice of Samuel Roukin. 

At 180ish pages, Elric of Melnibone sets the table for new readers as an origin novel that kicks off the fantasy series properly. Elric is the emperor of the island kingdom of Melnibone, also called Dragon Isle. Elric is the 428th emperor to sit on the ruby throne, but he's a plagued leader. Described as a thin sickly albino, Elric must rely on special potions and magic to stay alive. In essence, he is sort of like a vampire relying on blood to exist. His rival to the throne is his cousin Yyrkoon, a mastermind that is consistently plotting methods to ascend to power. Complicating this familial power struggle is Cymoril, Elric's love interest and sister of Yyrkoon (which means Elric is really in love with his cousin?). 

Melnibone was once the world's dominating superpower, but centuries have eroded the kingdom's prosperity and left them merely a shell of their former glory. However, Melnibone still maintains a flourishing trading business that is sought after by rival kingdoms. In the book's opening chapters, Elric and Yyrkoon are on a war barge fighting one of these rivals when Yyrkoon capitalizes on Elric's weakened state and throws him into the deep sea. 

I won't ruin the whole surprise, but Elric doesn't die. Instead, he lives to avenge this murder attempt by exiling Yyrkoon from Melnibone. But, Yyrkoon captures Cymoril and escapes into the Young Kingdoms far away. As Elric desperately tries to locate Cymoril, he must fight Yyrkoon. It is this search for Elric's love that makes up the bulk of the book's narrative. Elric is forced to find a magical sword called Stormbringer that “possesses” it's wielder. The sword craves killing and feeds its wielder in the same ways as Elric's magic potions. To kill Yyrkoon, Elric needs Stormbringer, but must also face the fact that the sword will be his new master. 

Michael Moorcock is absolutely brilliant with this heroic tale featuring the beloved Elric. In the big picture, Elric is an incarnation of the Eternal Champion, a warrior that is created by the gods and reborn repeatedly. Moorcock's other series titles like Hawkmoon, Erekos, and Corum feature incarnations of the Eternal Champion, just in different universes that make up Moorcock's robust multiverse. However, readers don't need to read these other titles to appreciate this novel. This is an origin tale that gets the reader acquainted with Elric and his mission ahead. It has jealousy, action, nautical adventure, sword-and-sorcery, fantasy, and world building sprinkled into a rather simple plot. It is good versus evil, but tells a broader story of the responsibilities of power. There are numerous underlying themes that reflect political strife and upheaval, a common theme for Moorcock.

Elric of Melnibone is a mandatory read if you have even the smallest desire to read a fantasy novel. It is an easy book to dive into and its characters and frenzied pace are captivating. Highest possible recommendation. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Eternal Champion #01 - The Eternal Champion

Michael Moorcock is a British science-fiction and fantasy author that began writing novels and stories in the late 1950s. His literary work is mostly composed of series titles that all links to an epic multiverse of various worlds and time periods. I'm familiar with Moorcock through his musical contributions to Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind, but haven't seriously dissected his bibliography. To sample his work, I decided to try The Eternal Champion, often referred to as the Erekose series. The trilogy's eponymous debut, originally appeared as a novella in Science Fantasy #53 in 1962. After Moorcock modified and expanded the story, it was published by Dell in 1970 with a Frank Frazetta cover.

The novel is presented in the first-person by John Daker, a man from present day Earth who has been summoned by King Regenos to become a supernatural swordsman known as Erekose, meaning the one who is always there. Daker can remember bits and pieces of his past life, including the various incarnations of himself under names like Elric, Cornelius, Corum, Hawkmoon, and others. Regenos explains that the human race is facing genocide from a race of beings called Eldren. With Erekose's tactical strategy and battleground prowess, mankind can be saved by this messiah. 

The sword-and-sorcery adventure places Erekose on a wooden long-ship sailing to the Eldren capital city. En-route, Erekose witnesses Regenos' unethical tactics when he strikes down an Eldren leader during a truce. Later, the humans wipe out the Eldren's seaport city, slaughtering everyone other than their princess, a woman named Ermizhad. With her as a prisoner, Erekose begins to see a different perspective of the Eldren. As the action shifts to the kingdom commanded by Regeno, Erekose questions his purpose and fate.

If you are a casual sword-and-sorcery fan, or just enjoy a great adventure, then you will easily become enthralled in The Eternal Champion. It can be enjoyed as a simple, yet exciting, action yarn without any deep analysis. The formula is somewhat elementary from a sky-level interpretation – hero is born from the ashes, leads the humans to fight the invaders, questions the motives, then becomes an ally of the invaders. It is a fast-paced, swift action-adventure that is absolutely top-notch. 

However, Moorcock never goes with the grain. He is always questioning the realms of fantasy and the stereotypical flavors and trappings of the genre. As a deep dive, The Eternal Champion positions Erekose as questioning his cursed fatalism. Why is he destined to live out these tragic lifespans in a cycle of the future becoming the past? Is he mankind's savior in a physical sense? The idea that Erekos arrives in an empty tomb places him in a Christ-like position of immense power. As an authority figure, Erekos must decide who needs saving and if warfare truly has rules. Questions of nobility in war, humanity's self-destruction, and the concept of human exceptionalism arise over the course of the narrative. Moorcock's prose, both ultra-smooth and ripe with imagery, presents an appealing and durable protagonist.

The Eternal Champion proves to be timeless classic and worthy of all the critical acclaim and accolades it receives. As a newbie to Moorcock, I think this book may be the welcome drug into an unparalleled library of epic, thought-provoking literature created by a revolutionary scribe. This is sheer perfection, and I want more. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.