Michael Moorcock is the elder statesman of the S&S genre. He earned his bones. His success is unquestioned and his influence is clear. It would be unmannerly for a piker like myself, who has yet to make much of a ripple in the genre, to criticize a big fish like Moorcock. I’ve already, perhaps, neared such impertinence during the course of my Appendix N series, but the nature of the undertaking required a certain degree of honesty.
The thing is, in my personal experience, Elric and the rest of the Eternal Champion stories, worked well for a certain period of my life and experience, but not as well later in life. I’m making no argument here, simply pointing out my subjective impressions. Yours may differ, and I would not object even if I could. My claim to be the Final Arbiter of all Things Subjective is made purely in jest.
So, understand that I picked up The Revenge of the Rose with personally calibrated, limited expectations. I was pleased to find that Rose marginally exceeded those expectations. Elric remains Elric, brooding and tortured. (There ought to be an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History with Elric versus Lestat.) There is plenty of the usual. I won’t criticize it; it’s a feature not a bug. But a minor criticism is that Elric is rather passive in this book, brought along for the ride other characters are taking through the Multiverse. On the other hand, maybe that’s a reason I somewhat enjoyed this one: the other characters.
It was nice to encounter Prince Gaynor the Damned again. And there were other callbacks to the Corum books. I have fond memories of reading The Chronicles of Corum as a teen. I mean, look at that cover. I must have read that one three or four times during high school.
I also enjoyed the imaginative settings, one of Moorcock’s greatest skills as a writer. There was the train of monstrous wagons, forever circling the planet, a sort of proto-Snowpiercer. There was The Ship That Was. There was the abandoned, crystalline city. Moorcock can always be counted on to create a memorable location. And he is evocative, skilled at creating a mood.
And then, there’s the relatively happy ending. Even knowing what ultimately lies in store for Elric, it is nice to see him off on what promises to be an interlude of tranquility and contentment. I remain fond of my memories of Elric. So, I found the end of Rose satisfying. A rewarding payoff.
I mentioned the call back to the Corum books. One thing Moorcock created was the idea that his Elvish race existed throughout the Multiverse under different names. Elric may be called a Melnibonean, but let’s face it, he’s an elf. In Rose he recognizes his kindred, though they are called the Vadhagh. Elves. Tall, and generally considered superior to men, though whether benign or malign depends on the world in question.
I did something similar with Thick As Thieves, creating the Haptha. Tall, physically (and perhaps culturally) superior human-like beings. But perhaps…maybe…could be, they are just elves with the serial numbers filed off and some aftermarket add-ons. The second edition of Thick As Thieves is out. Tell me what you think. And where do I get off daring to cast even a hint of shade at an acknowledged master? (And I do acknowledge it. You don’t need to extol his virtues. Michael Moorcock doesn’t need the help and I already appreciate what he’s created, even if I’m no longer the ideal reader of it.)
To sum up: I enjoyed The Revenge of the Rose. If you’re an Elric fan, I recommend it to you.