The Michael Moorcock series continues.
Raw Feed (1999): Kane of Old Mars, Michael Moorcock, 1965, 1998.
“Introduction” — Moorcock reveals more of his prodigious talent and history. He learned to read at age three and was a professional writer at age 15. The three novels of this volume were written in “just over a week”. [And, 19 years later, do I remember if that’s a week for each or a week for all. And I’m not going to check.] Moorcock mainly talks about his love of Edgar Rice Burroughs and how this series is a John Carter of Mars pastiche written, under a pen name, at the same time he edited the avante garde New Worlds. He cheerfully acknowledges, but does not try to reconcile, the inconsistencies of editing a magazine rebelling and denouncing genre conventions while writing a pastiche of one of the pulpiest (Moorcock loves pulp) series of all times. I found it interesting that Sexton Blake (a detective that shows up in Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse comic and Tales from the Texas Woods) and Zenith (also a character in the Multiverse comic) were not original to Moorcock. Rather the Blake series of novels goes back into the 1800s and has had many manifestations.
City of the Beast — This is a pretty faithful John Carter of Mars imitation. Both heroes are expert swordsmen who spend a lot of time trying to find and rescue scantily clad princesses and, by accident, befriending nonhumans. Moorcock’s plot coincidences are better hidden than Edgar Rice Burroughs but still there. (Michael Kane just happening to live in a town populated by an ex-fencing instructor of the Romanovs and just happening to meet Shizala, his beloved princess, first thing of Mars and just happening to be rescued by a Argzoon he showed mercy to.) I didn’t find this story very interesting, but then I’m not a fan of its model. I found the most interesting aspect was learning the Martians of millions of years in the past will eventually emmigrate to Earth and give rise to Hindu mythology. Moorcock used the same idea, the reality behind Hindu mythology, in his “Flux”, the installment before this in his Eternal Champion saga as published by White Wolf. This novel has very little seeming relevance to the notion of the Eternal Champion and adds nothing to the notion.
Lord of Spiders — More John Carter-style adventures on Mars. Nothing really interesting here and, though it was only 122 pages long, it was a struggle to finish this one.
Masters of the Pit — This was, of the three novels in this omnibus, the most interesting. Kane, in this novel only, seems, in his fight against the bizarre government of the Eleven in Cend-Amrid, to be a manifestation of the Eternal Champion in his fight against Chaos. I also liked the Dr. Moreau-like element of the Fast monsters creating sentient beings out of cats and dogs. Philosophically, this novel is weightier than its two predecessors. Kane says he likes Mars because its governments and societies do not make the mistake of trying to attain perfection. This is an odd tenet for Moorcock, a political liberal, to express since one of modern liberalism’s [well, progressivism] basic tenets is precisely trying to perfect society. The major philosophical point of this novel is that fear leads to various evils. While Kane and his fellow Varnalians are to be commended for not killing the victims of the Green Death, this tenet of fear springing from lack of understanding and leading to aggression is not only proved false in reality (sometimes aggression is necessary precisely because an enemy is well understood) but also by the story itself. Kane is more than happy to kill opponents he fears and understands.
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I mildly enjoyed KANE OF MARS when I first read it. They are lesser Moorcock, but the books have their moments.
Since they’re pastiches, I think you probably have to like Edgar Rice Burroughs better than me to really enjoy them. Edgar Rice Burroughs has his obvious merits — otherwise people wouldn’t avidly read him more than a 100 years later — but, even at a young age, I didn’t like him that much. His plots are way too dependent on coincidence for my tastes.