ELRIC AT THE END OF TIME
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The stories included in Elric at the End of Time include works about Elric which don't quite fit into the overall cycle, an original novel that forms some of Moorcock's juvenalia, and a self-parody. In addition, Moorcock includes a handful of essays discussing Elric and Jerry Cornelius, two of his popular creations.
While Moorcock eventually linked all, or most, of his series together in his grand multiverse, he often combined them for stories. Elric met other aspects of the Eternal Champion in The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and The Vanishing Tower. In "Elric at the End of Time," appears to be set shortly after The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and allowed Moorcock to introduce his characters and the setting of the "Dancers at the End of Time" series to Elric's world. In his introduction to the collection, Moorcock notes that the characters at the End of Time would seem like Chaos Lords to Elric and the story alternates between Elric's view of them and their view of him, although the latter is also seen through the eyes of frequent Moorcock character Una Persson from the Jerry Cornelius novels and The Adventures of Catherine Cornelius and Una Persson in the Twentieth Century. While the story works well enough for readers who are already familiar with both Elric and the End of Time series, it doesn't work quite as well if it is read as part of either series, appearing in either case as more of a fun experiment by the author rather than a serious story or a continuation of either series.
"The Last Enchantment" was, according to Moorcock, meant to be the final Elric story before he decided on the events described in Stormbringer. Because Moorcock eventually came up with the apocalyptic story presented in Stormbringer, "The Last Enchantment" was shelved, although it certainly doesn't readlike a final story and could easily have been incorporated, perhaps with some minor changes, into the Elric saga as Moorcock eventually published it. The story places Elric in the realm of the Chaos Lords, although a very different realm from the End of Time depicted in the earlier story. This story could more easily have fit into the main Elric storyline with few changes.
Sojan the Swordsman is an early work by Moorcock and follows the title character in a medieval style world which includes airships and aire-pressure guns. In the first chapter, Sojan enters the service of Nornos Kad, the ruler of the empire of Hatnor. Subsequent chapters tell of Sojan's various adventures in service to Nornos Kad. The short novel reads episodically, without a real overarching theme, often two or three chapters tell their own story and then Sojan moves on to an unrelated adventure. Although Moorcock attempted to make the character unique, mostly by giving him a shield in a world which doesn't have shields, and a setting which isn't typical, there is a generic quality to the story, which at times reads like it should be expanded with the action and ideas fleshed out. This may partly be due to Moorcock's youth when he wrote it and partly due to the needs of the market when it was first published.
Moorcock ends the collection with his self-parody "The Stone Thing." This brief story skewers some of the excesses of Moorcock's fantasy stories, most notably his penchant for naming magical items, such as Stormbringer and Mournblade from the Elric stories. Even more focused in the story is his look at Corum, who has lost and replaced his hand and his eye. Catharz, the hero of this short piece has started where Corum began and takes it to its illogical extreme, with most of his body replaced by pieces taken from various unpronounceable gods, resulting in the eventual punchline. The story works on its own, but only reall succeeds when the reader is familiar with Moorcock's work overall.
In addition to the two Elric stories, Sojan the Swordsman, and the parody, Elric at the End of Time includes essays on Elric and Jerry Cornelius. The book as a whole comes across as apocrypha: portions of Moorcock's oeuvre which touch on his major works and helped influence them, but in the end were deemed to not be part of the canon. They form an interesting, but unnecessary coda to the Elric cycle.
|Elric at the End of Time||Sojan the Swordsman|
|The Last Enchantment||The Stone Thing|
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