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Reviews of Elric of Melniboné (1972)

Review by ropie (2007-01-09)
I don't read a lot of fantasy fiction so it is perhaps unfair to judge Elric against that which I have read (namely, 'The Lord of the Rings', 'The Hobbit' and 'Gormenghast'). Let's just say I am intrigued by the ideas of fantasy but find the execution difficult to live with - the books are either too long, too entrenched in their own detail or just overly ambitious. However, I know these are qualities that a lot of fantasy fans admire and appreciate about the genre so I'd better leave that!

Anyway, Elric appealed to me initially in that, though the version I read (the SF Masterworks collection of the major stories) was not short, it was at least composed of several distinct smaller novels. Also, the world Moorcock creates is not bound together in a bulging sack of finicky phantasmagorical detail but seems to be made up on a broader canvas with more room for the imagination. So initially I found myself enjoying the early adventures with their dark occurences and interesting, if thin, characters.

However, things rapidly got ridiculous and when I had read about Elric somehow summoning up the last vestiges of energy left to him by the Gods for yet _another_ 'final battle', for the fiftieth time, I was beginning to feel a bit cheated. Not that I require scientifically provable values for all events but the entirety of this book seemed to hinge on Elric 'drawing himself up yet again' and I got bored.

The imagery that accompanies these heroic scenes is psychedelic to say the least and reminded me of covers to Miles Davis' 1970s jazz-fusion albums. In a way I enjoyed it but found the whole a convenient mess and I kept forgetting who was slaying who and why, and which power they had, etc.

For fans this is probably stirling stuff and there's no doubting that Moorcock is a writer of great skill. It was all overblown for me though and it will probably be a while before I try to read a fantasy novel again.

Review by clong (2006-02-12)
The Elric saga seems to hold a key place within the canon of dark fantasy, comparable to the place of Tolkien in the pantheon of the high fantasy of elves, coming of age quests, and epic battles of good against evil. In the preface to the version I read, Moorcock described his early Elric stories as a kind of reaction against Tolkien, a return to the fantasy roots of Edgar Rice Burroughs leavened with a healthy dose of the American Beats and French Existentialists. He also acknowledges the influence of Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword.

This first book tells the story of how Elric was transformed from a sickly but contemplative king into an itinerant adventurer. It is a quick read, with a plot that moves from scene to scene with hardly a pause for breath. The various settings are inventive and intriguing and at times surreal, without really giving the sense of a cohesive whole that fits together in any way.

The characters are rather one dimensional. Elric is a thoughtful hero in a violent, unthinking world. His cousin will do anything to take the throne that he believes should have been his. Elric's love interest seems to exist for the sole reason of needing to be rescued. The Gods deal with mortals only to further their own internecine machinations.

I picked this up to check out the top rated series at iblist. And it's easy to see why readers enjoy these stories. I will definitely plan to read more.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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