I’m a big fan of Michael Moorcock. He has a great line in pulpy fantasy, wonderfully memorable characters, and his whole approach — “the conventions of fantasy are inherently conservative and reactionary; let’s hippify this shit” — seems entirely laudable. I’ve read many of his books, but, since he has written such a staggering number, only a small fraction of his total output. He is probably most famous for the adventures of the various incarnations of the Eternal Champion — most notably Elric, but also Corum, Hawkmoon, and many others. This book recounts an adventure of the Ur-incarnation, the Eternal Champion himself, Erekosë.
The consciousness of 20th century everyman John Daker (possibly the same John Daker who was the subject of a short lived musical meme a couple of years ago) is transported somewhere and when into the reborn body of Erekosë, a champion dead for millenia. He has been summoned by the King of a belligerent human race in dire need of a general to lead humanity against the perfidious Eldren.
In true fantasy pulp style, Erekosë is a superlative warrior. He wields a magical sword, smites his enemies wherever he finds them, and defeats the Eldren without undue difficulty — he even ends up with the beautiful human princess. In fact, being the stud muffin he is, he also manages to have a relationship with the exotic Eldren princess.
There is, of course, much more to the book than this banal plot would suggest. The liberal perspective of Erekosë’s John Daker persona means that acts of violence (of which there are many) are constantly second-guessed and questioned. Angst is the order of the day, an angst which comes more and more to the fore as Erekosë realised that far from the Eldren being evil, it is humanity that is the feral force of bloodshed and xenophobia, while the Eldren are peaceful and civilised. Nonetheless, Erekosë feels bound by a vow made to his princess love (in reality a psychopathic harridan) to wipe them out. He keeps this vow till he has killed all but the last stronghold of the Eldren, at which point fickle Erekosë is convinced to change his mind. Using the advanced weapon technology that the peaceful Eldren had theretofore refused to use, he turns on his erstwhile human allies and wipes them out. All of them.
Hmm, another book culminating in genocide.
The Eternal Champion was an easy and quick read (one of the charms of the pulp mode). It wasn’t half as much fun as an Elric story would have been, but it gave an interesting perspective on Moorcock’s universe. Definitely one to check out if you like his other heroic fantasy stuff.