Wednesday, 4 November 2009

‘Elric in the Dream Realms’ – Michael Moorcock (Del Rey)

After yesterday’s brief sojourn into ‘books with girly covers’ I felt the need to pick something up where the cover was a little more... you know... manly. This probably says a little more about me than I should admit! ;o) There are plenty of covers, on the reading pile, that do the whole ‘manly thing’ but the one that caught my eye was the cover for Del Rey’s latest ‘Elric’ collection. Have a quick look, isn’t it great? Michael Wm. Kaluta’s illustrations, on the inside, aren’t bad either.
It wasn’t just the cover that prompted me to give this one a go. I’ve been a fan of Moorcock’s ‘Elric’ stories for a long time now and while the new Del Rey collections have stories that I’ve read before there are always a few little gems that I haven’t come across. This was certainly the case with ‘In the Dream Realms’...

As the title suggests, ‘Elric in the Dream Realms’ covers certain of Elric’s adventures in the lands of Dream; most notably in ‘The Fortress of the Pearl’, ‘Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer’ and the Neil Gaiman short story ‘One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock’. Out of these I would have to pick the Neil Gaiman as my favourite piece as he totally captures that disconnected feeling of discovering fantasy fiction, for the first time, and then getting totally lost in it as the rest of the world passes you by. I’ve felt like that and sometimes I still do, even now. The odds are, if you’re reading this blog then it’s a feeling that you still have to deal with every now and then. And who among us hasn’t wished that they could talk to (and generally hang out with) their favourite characters from a book? Gaiman certainly has and lets us experience this as well by giving us a bridge to cross between this world and the world of his dreams. After all, isn’t that what most (if not all) fantasy fiction is?

When I read ‘Elric’ for the first time, ‘The Fortress of the Pearl’ was perhaps the story I liked least of all; it felt like it strayed into self indulgent philosophizing at times and not a lot actually happened. It’s been a few years now since I read it last and taking that break seems to have been a good thing to do. ‘The Fortress of the Pearl’ does meander still (I got the feeling it could have been done in perhaps half the time) but there is a lot more to the nature of the ‘Dream World’ than I realised last time and there is more going on, in the plot itself, than I thought. Lessons are there to be learnt and Elric has to learn as many as the ones that he dishes out. There is a real sense of progression in Elric’s character here; while his ultimate quest remains the same it is a different Elric that leaves the desert at the end of the book. While ‘The Fortress of the Pearl’ stands well on its own, if you’ve read the rest of the series then it takes on far more tragic overtones and is worth revisiting in this regard...

‘Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer’ was a comic book that I meant to pick up years ago but never quite managed to. I was glad then to see it appearing in this collection but I’m guessing that certain practicalities meant that we were only ever going to get the script and not the whole thing. We do get a glimpse at some of the artwork but this only whetted my appetite for something that the book couldn’t deliver. The script does work well on it’s own though and what was interesting (as well as seeing how Elric’s future was ever set in stone, by his own hand...) was to see the conversational tone of Moorcock’s work here as he left little asides in the script for the artist, Walter Simonson, to pick up on. You may not get all the artwork but the trade off does work for the reader.

The three big features, in this collection, ended up working very well for me but the smaller pieces were more ‘hit and miss’ as far as I was concerned. I never really got the point of ‘A Portrait in Ivory’ the last time I read it and this time was no different. All credit to Moorcock for creating an entire story from the word ‘insouciant’ but it felt more like a story written for the hell of it rather than something that fits into the wider picture (like the other ‘Elric’ stories do).
‘Aspects of Fantasy’ and the introduction to the Taiwan edition of ‘Elric’ show some interesting hints at how Elric’s character has developed, both prior to his initial creation and since then; definitely one for those who like to get behind the scenes and find out about the influences that gave rise to a character.
‘Earl Aubec of Malador’ isn’t actually an ‘Elric’ story at all but does give the reader an insight into the history of the Young Kingdoms that Elric would eventually travel through. I like my world building to be as thorough as possible so this added breadth was welcome as far as I was concerned.

Bonus cover art, art work and maps round off what I found to be a very enjoyable collection of ‘Elric’ tales and supporting material. Here’s a collection that’s ideally suited to both the ‘completists’, looking for rare material, and those who are looking to check out ‘Elric’ for the first time.

Nine out of Ten


lee-tyke said...

My friend has just lent me the Von Bek books by Moorcock which im loving and totally sailing through. Somehow in all my years reading Ive missed Moorcock. Shame on me. After this recommendation of yours, and especially if Gaimans involved, im going to go for some Elric.

RKCharron said...

Hi Graeme :)
I love Elric. He's one of my favorite characters. Thanks for the review.
All the best,