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Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress (Chronicles Of The Last Emperor Of Melniboné Volume 3) by Michael Moorcock

01/02/2009. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy

Buy Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress in the USA - or Buy Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress in the UK

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 35 page illustrated enlarged paperback. Price: $14.00 (US), $16.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-49864-9.

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The bulk of this latest Michael Moorcock volume consists of two novels: 'The Sleeping Sorceress' and 'Elric Of Melniboné', both of which are made up of three 'books' or novellas. Despite this and despite the fact that they were written only a year apart, they are very different.

'The Sleeping Sorceress' was written for magazine publication and is really three separate stories, though each deals with Elric's nemesis, Theleb K'aarna. Elric charges about all over the world trying to rid it of the upstart sorcerer from Pan Tang. In the first book, Theleb, in league with a Chaos warlord, tries to conquer the land of Lormyr and Elric teams up with the sleeping sorceress to fend him off. She is awake for this. In the second book, Theleb allies himself with Urish the seven-fingered, King of Nadsokor, city of beggars. Elric and Moonglum get help from Rackhir the Red Archer but Theleb escapes again. In the final volume, he tries to conquer Tanelorn with more Chaos monsters and Elric has to travel to another world to get a weapon to save the day. On this mission, he encounters Erekosë and Corum, two other aspects of the Eternal Champion, a powerful alliance but one which cannot last long as it puts a strain on the Multiverse to have three warriors who are essentially the same chap in the same place at the same time.

All this is jolly good fun and similar to the other ripping yarns in the 'Eternal Champion' series.

'Elric Of Melnibone' was written shortly after but is very different. In the introduction, Moorcock says it was the first time he wrote directly for book publication. Perhaps that's why it demonstrates a bit more finesse in the writing, which is often beautiful. Regrettably, it is the kind of prose that only established professionals are allowed to do or small press authors in quirky short stories. Biblical style sentences with strings of 'and' between clauses and other clauses in brackets tacked on the end of sentences. Your Microsoft grammar checker won't let you do this without protest and most editors will balk, too (The editor of this electric organ likes his prose plain). In general, modern fiction has to reach the lowest common denominator and be written in short declarative sentences (Run spot run. See spot run) though happily a few stylists still slip through the net.

Moorcock started his writing career with comics and pulp fiction and probably picked up these literary tricks from the arty types he edited on 'New Worlds' magazine, people like M. John Harrison and J.G. Ballard. These are top class highly respected authors but I find them both unreadable. Moorcock, however, combines elegant prose with the strong plotting and story sense which he learned from writing comics and pulp fiction so he knows how to keep the reader interested. 'Elric Of Melnibone' is brilliant.

The book also contains a few essays and an interesting introduction by the author. Like Alan Moore, his Doppelganger, Moorcock writes interestingly about his own work and is also good on fantasy in general. This series of volumes from Del Rey may well be the definitive Elric collection for as long as the Multiverse endures.

Eamonn Murphy

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