Wednesday, 7 July 2010

‘Flux’ – Michael Moorcock/Barrington Bayley

As with Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock is far more than just the work of his most famous characters; he’s another prolific author with a back catalogue that I’ve barely even glimpsed at (despite reading most of the ‘obvious’ books). Not only was ‘Flux’ a story of his that I’ve never read but it’s also only thirty two pages long (in my edition of ‘Sailing to Utopia’ which made it the perfect choice for a quick read before I went to bed last night. There’s a lot to be said in favour of ‘Flux’ but I have to say that it’s not my favourite story of Moorcock’s...

(‘Flux’ was originally published in ‘New Worlds #132’ way back in the depths of 1963. If you can dig up an old copy of ‘New Worlds #132’ then you’re doing a lot better than I ever could! You stand more of a chance finding it in the collection ‘Sailing to Utopia’ but cheap copies are hard to come by online...)

Max Von Bek might just be the only hope for a Europe that (as ‘the most massive, complex, high-pressured phenomenon ever to appear on the face of this planet’) that is beyond the comprehension or control of it’s masters. Various social experiments have been proposed and the best way to gauge their success (and stop any other mistakes from being made in the meantime) is to send someone into the future and see what the world is like ten years down the line.
Max Von Bek is the man chosen to make that trip... but what if he can’t get back? How will he survive in time streams where everything is in a constant state of flux...?

‘Flux’ is an ambitious tale that is ultimately hamstrung by the fact that it tries to do far too much in far too short a space. I also wonder if it’s lack of effectiveness was anything to do with the fact that this story was one of the few collaborations that Moorcock worked on back in the sixties (this one with Barrington Bayley). Maybe things got a little too diluted here...?
The bottom line though is that, in thirty two pages, Moorcock and Bayley hit the reader with their vision of a future Europe (with commentary upon it’s demise), the mechanics of time travel, Von Bek’s vision of the Europe’s of his future (with commentary upon their demise) and a brief jaunt through time towards the conclusion. All of these are worth a look, just to see how the authors set out their vision of the future and the argument for it. The arguments are well made but there’s no real time to dwell on them at the length they deserve, the next part of the story has to be got to!

The end result is a tale that is intriguing and frustrating in equal measure. There’s plenty for the reader to think about and the brief glimpse of the multiverse in particular raises questions about Von Bek that might be interesting to followers of the Eternal Champion series (and probably why you’ll find it included as part of the series even though it’s a very loose fit). There just simply isn’t enough room though to really get to the bottom of the concepts raised and some key elements of the story are also left vague because of this. I liked the little twist in the tale though, right at the very end...

I’ve always found myself getting along a lot better with Moorcock’s longer, sword and sorcery styled, work (than his short stories) and I’ll admit that may be a big reason why ‘Flux’ didn’t really work for me. I couldn’t escape from the feeling though that ‘Flux’ promised a lot more than it was eventually able to deliver...

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