Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Fireclown

Michael Moorcock The Fireclown (1965)

An early work from himself, and an impulse purchase made on the grounds of it having the greatest cover of all time and featuring the Fireclown, a character whose subsequent japes in The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming made for such fine and impressively weird reading.

I gather Moorcock was still finding his feet when he wrote this. It certainly has its moments, but somehow lacks character and doesn't compare well even to The Shores of Death written only a year later. The Fireclown is conspicuously a parable, a parody of political systems, specifically English political systems of the 1960s wherein Harold Macmillan shaped politicians conspire against free-wheeling counter-cultural types. There's space travel, strange powers exerted over time, and futuristic fashions; but telephone switchboards are still worked by gossip prone operators, and somehow it feels very much a product of its time. Worse still, the first half is one of the least memorable things I've read in ages, very much a fumbled ball considering that it revolves around a revolutionary super-powered clown inspiring dissent in an underground city.

The Fireclown picks up towards the end, and it's nevertheless worth reading, but the promise of the cover isn't really delivered. Still, Moorcock's written about a million books, and off the top of my head I can think of at least six or seven that were brilliant in more or less every way, so the guy's entitled the odd dud.

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