Sunday, March 16, 2008

City of Beasts

Black Gate Staff
From the Black Gate website

City of the Beast
By Michael Moorcock

A Review by Ryan Harvey

Copyright 2007 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.

Planet Stories (160 pages, September 2007, $12.99)

“I enjoyed it enormously. It was kind of a holiday for me,” Michael Moorcock once remarked about writing the “Kane of Old Mars” series. Reading the first of these novels, City of the Beast, is exactly like taking that holiday with Mr. Moorcock. Imagine chucking all your possession so you can buy a fancy red convertible and then tearing out to Florida without a care in the world. That’s City of the Beast. It has that “hell with it, let’s go for a ride!” feel. The book is a rare case of genuine escapism, and one of few times I can use the word “escapism” without thinking that I am ducking my responsibilities as a reviewer.

The hero of City of the Beast and the two following novels (Lord of the Spiders and Masters of the Pit) is the valiant Michael Kane. Kane is an incarnation of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, but readers do not need to know anything about this overarching concept to enjoy the book. Kane’s science-fantasy adventures on a quaintly impossible Mars unabashedly imitate Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tales of John Carter, with dashes of other early pioneers of scientific romance like Leigh Brackett.

for the rest

Ed here: There may be another writer who enjoys the esteem of both high and low lit people to the degree that Michael Moorcock does but at the moment I can't think of any. Many of his novels are shelved along with contemporary masters; some, as with City of Beasts, appear next to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Seemingly odd company, that, for a man who was a key figure in the evolution of science fiction's New Wave back in the Sixties and Seventies.

I've heard varying versions of how much time was spent on each book in the trilogy. It averages out to be about a week per book. Believable given Moorcock's output in his early years.

I read the above review awhile back and just happened to bump into a copy of City of The Beast (as by Edward Bradbury) at Half Price. I finished it about an hour ago and enjoyed the hell out of it.

It makes no pretense to be anything other than an ER Burroughs-like romp through the Mars that Burroughs and Brackett gave us. There is no spectrally beautiful moment such as John Carter in that cave in Arizona being summoned to Mars and there is no invention quite the equal of Brackett's dangerous canal towns. But there is a Dumas-like splendor in the derring-do and the elegant maidens and these decsriptions of the soaring marble buildings catching the last of the red planet's daylight..

Many of the adventure books of my youth are difficult to go back to now. Too many flaws. But City of The Beasts works just fine because of its wit and refusal to take itself seriously.

1 comment:

Ryan Harvey said...

Hey, thanks for linking to and quoting my review! Glad you enjoyed the book: it is beautifully exactly what it is. However, I didn't enjoy the succeeding two volumes quite as much--perhaps the enthusiasm just wears off too quickly.