Friday, 17 September 2010

‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ – Michael Moorcock (Tor/Orion)

My slow meander through Michael Moorcock’s back catalogue continues at the kind of pace we’ve all come to expect on this blog. I’ve got no date in mind whatsoever for completing this particular journey, the size of the backlist that awaits me defies all attempts at setting firm dates for completion. And you know what? I’m enjoying the ride far too much to want it to be over any time soon; this one is all about making the most of the journey while it lasts.
I read ‘The Jewel in the Skull’ way back in May and a whole load of events (noteworthy only to myself), this week, conspired to put a copy of the sequel in my hands for a read. I was reading the Millennium edition this time round but the Tor edition (a lot easier to get hold of) is only two hundred and eight pages long so you can easily tell that this is just the quick and snappy read to round off the week on. Like its predecessor, ‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ was a lot of fun to read...

Following the events of ‘The Jewel in the Skull’, Dorian Hawkmoon journeys back to the Kamarg in order to continue his fight against the Granbretanian Dark Empire. It looks however as if Dorian has a lot of fighting to do before he can even begin his journey in earnest. The soldiers of the Dark Empire are everywhere and they all have orders to capture Hawkmoon for the pleasure of the Emperor, an enemy thought dead is also about to make an appearance.
If that wasn’t enough for Hawkmoon and his friends to contend with, the mysterious Warrior in Jet and Gold appears with a mission that Hawkmoon has no choice but to embark on. The Mad God is possession of an amulet that is Hawkmoon’s by right, even though he has never heard of it. Higher powers work on Hawkmoon’s very destiny and more than he realises depends on the amulet being reclaimed from the grip of the Mad God...

‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ proved to be the ideal book for yesterdays commute and this morning as well. In much the same way as ‘The Jewel in the Skull’, this book is a fast paced read that relies on a constant stream of armed combat and monstrous confrontation to keep the plot moving and the pages turning. Don’t forget the swashbuckling as well! The action doesn’t stop when the characters leave dry land; there is also warfare at sea where our outnumbered heroes resolve their situation in a manner that I really enjoyed reading.

There’s only so much room, in this book, though and what you’ll find is that once again the action comes very much at the expense of character development. What you get are quick flashes of character determined by what is happening at the time instead of characters that drive the plot forwards. I was happy with this as it more or less continued the approach laid out in the first book. The chronicles of Hawkmoon make it very clear that they’re all about entertainment first and foremost, no apologies made! If that’s all you’re after then I reckon you’ll have a fine time here. If you’re after something with a little more to chew on then you might want to consider picking up something else...

This air of simplicity is also apparent not only in the familiar rhythm that ‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ settles into (see my review of ‘The Jewel in the Skull’) but also in the steps that Moorcock has to take in order to keep things flowing smoothly and at the pace he demands. There’s no time to resolve cliff hangers with any real detail so Moorcock pulls any number of tricks out of his hat to keep things ticking over. Hitherto unmentioned races of advanced humans, weapons that save the day at the last possible moment, you name it. To Moorcock’s credit though, he tosses these ‘deus ex machina’ out with such casual abandon that you find yourself just going along with it. That’s what the story’s about after all! It’s only afterwards that you find yourself thinking, ‘Hang on...’ If you enjoyed the story beforehand though, surely it doesn’t matter?

‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ isn’t ashamed to be anything other than what it is; good old fashioned entertainment for entertainment’s sake. Any book that can use the line “Most of our Flamingos are dead, so we have virtually no protection in the air”, and keep a straight face, is fine by me! I won’t be leaving it too long before I read ‘The Sword of the Dawn’ if ‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ is anything to go by.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

lee-tyke said...

The Hawkmoon books are some of my favourite Moorcock stories along with the follow up Count Brass trilogy.
Things get even more bizarre in the Count Brass books but to say any further could spoil.
I found the Gran Bretan characters to be really unsettling and sometimes had to put the books down to properly digest what I have read.
I believe in the seventies Moorcock was responsible for many a bad acid trip.