Wednesday, 4 January 2012

‘Count Brass’ – Michael Moorcock (Mayflower)

I’ve been thinking about my New Year’s reading resolutions and came to the conclusion that I’d probably be safer either not making any at all or just not telling you guys what they are. Looking at my track record it’s easy to see why I’m going down this particular path. Remember late last year and my saying that I’d read ‘The Heroes’ before the end of the year? We all know how that one turned out don’t we... And how about the year before when I was all full of ‘I’m definitely going to read ‘The Anubis Gates’...? I really need to pick that up and give it another try. So I’m keeping quiet about what I want to get read in 2012; especially when I picked out a whole load of books that looked interesting and ended up going with something that wasn’t on that pile at all. What can I say other than that I’m totally fickle at the moment? :o)

To be fair though, ‘Count Brass’ did have a couple of other things going for it that aided my choice. I was after a ‘slimmer than slim’ read to ease me into the New Year and ‘Count Brass’ weighs in at a positively minuscule hundred and forty pages; you don’t get a lot slimmer than that! I’d also really enjoyed the first three ‘Hawkmoon’ books (you can read the reviews Here, Here, Here and Here) and was interested to see where the story went next. By the end of ‘The Runestaff’ I thought everything had been tied up very neatly, hadn’t it...?

It has been five years since the Battle of Londra where Dorian Hawkmoon and his allies defeated the evil Granbretanian Dark Empire and bought peace to a Europe of the far future. All that remains for Dorian now is to hold court in the Kamarg and watch his children grow up as he grows older, or is it? Old friends long dead are beginning to reappear and their intentions towards Hawkmoon are not friendly at all, what is happening? Old enemies are steering Hawkmoon towards a confrontation where he must make an impossible choice. And there are consequences, to this outcome, that even Dorian Hawkmoon cannot envisage...

The great thing about reading a slim novel like ‘Count Brass’ is that it’s the work of a single commute to polish off and you haven’t strained muscles trying to carry it everywhere. The awkward thing about reading a slim novel like ‘Count Brass’ is that if the author hasn’t said a lot (in only a very few pages) then you’re not left with a lot to say about the book yourself. I’ll give it my best shot :o)

‘Count Brass’ was a funny read, to get through, and I’m not talking humour here. Any opening book, in a series, is going to set the scene for books to come and that’s the way it should be. I got the feeling though that ‘Count Brass’ took this approach a little too far and didn’t leave an awful lot of room for a story, not a clever idea when there’s only a hundred and forty pages in the book. I’m sure that the next two books will pad things out a lot more but it felt a little disjointed here.

Basically, Hawkmoon finds out something weird is happening (‘ghosts’ returning to haunt the Kamarg) and spends the book either explaining his theory or having his theory clarified and explained back to him. I liked the idea behind it all but couldn’t help but think that it was dealt with at the expense of the plot; a plot that had to sit and wait for a large chunk of the book before it was allowed to get going. To be honest, I grew a little bored in the meantime, I could see that stuff was going on but it all had to be explained to me first...

This was all the more annoying as there were more than a few flashes here of what made the previous four ‘Hawkmoon’ books such great reading. You’ve got dashing heroes who are great with a sword and evil villains with plans for world domination at any cost; in other words, the makings of a great pulp tale but only when it was allowed to have its head and run. These moments didn’t come until the very final chapters of the book though and, by then, the damage had been done for me.

Having said that though, there was enough here to intrigue me and ensure that I’ll read the final two books (which are also very slim). The central concept was over explained but intriguing and made for an absolutely awesome cliff hanger which arrived just when you thought that everything had been resolved (and Moorcock does well to have the reader thinking this, given that this is the first book in a trilogy). And like I said, when the pulp elements of the book get going there’s still fun to be had.

‘Count Brass’ was a strange read then, with flashes of brilliance to recommend further reading but also with constant explanation of the central concept that was overdone to say the least. I’m expecting better things from the next book...

Seven out of Ten

Cover Art courtesy of The Image Hive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Found your review interesting. It has been a few years since I read this series and I will give you that the plots were a little vague but die hard Moorcock fans know there is a lot afoot in the multiverse and will be well treated by the time they finish the series that ties all the eternal champion books together in typical Moorcock mind-blowing fashion. Keep up the good reviews.