A PASSAGE TO THE UNDERWORLD
I was swimming through roaring, fluttering flames, down into a scarlet abyss which threatened to drown me in all the spilled blood of the Multiverse. Fire which did not burn, but licked at the secret places of the soul. Fire which revealed gibbering faces, like the faces of the damned in hell. Obscenely tortured bodies, a writhing ballet of torment. But I was not burned.
I swam through forests of identical ruby pillars. I swam over fields of emerald and pearl. I swam through cities in flames. I swam over battles between peoples and I swam over the destruction of worlds...
One of the most honored and controversial figures in the history of science fiction, multiple award-winning author/editor Michael Moorcock presents his first new Eternal Champion novel in more than a decade...
As Nazism engulfs the Fatherland, the albino Ulric von Bek, last Count of Bek, battles to keep the dark sword Ravenbrand from being taken by Adolf Hitler...
As an unhuman army engulfs Tanelorn, the albino Elric, last sorcerer-king of Melnibon?, fights to keep the black sword Stormbringer from being taken by Gaynor the Damned...
THE LEGENDS COLLIDE
They both fail. Now, their destinies suddenly entwined with that of Oona, the mysterious Dreamthief's Daughter, Elric and von Bek must become one hero. For the entire Multiverse will be destroyed--unless Elric can summon his dragon kin across space and time to the Battle of Britain, and show the Third Reich what hell on earth truly means...
In this latest installment in his multivolume saga of the Eternal Champion, Moorcock (War Amongst the Angels) teams his favorite hero, the melancholy albino swordsman Elric of Melnibon?, with Count Ulric von Bek, the last in a line of German noblemen who have made several previous appearances in the series. War is in the offing, and Hitler, having learned that the von Bek family may own both an enchanted sword and the Holy Grail itself, sends SS Major Gaynor von Minct to take possession of these mystical relics so they may be used to further the cause of the Third Reich. Von Bek and Gaynor, however, are merely the current earthly avatars of the Eternal Champion and one of his greatest foes; they are knights fighting in the causes, respectively, of Chaos and Law, in innumerable, gorgeously described, alternate realities. Von Bek and Elric, aided by the book's title character, a female archer who can take the shape of a white hare, must confront a variety of gods and monsters in an effort to preserve the balance of the Multiverse, which stands in dire danger of falling under Gaynor's control. Over the years Moorcock has produced a number of highly original genre and mainstream novels. In the Eternal Champion series, however, he has essentially been writing well-done variations on the same story for decades, gradually polishing his stylistic skill and occasionally making veiled allusions to contemporary political events. There's nothing particularly new here, but fans of the series should enjoy this addition. (Apr. 11)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 01, 2002
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Excerpt from The Dreamthief's Daughter by Michael Moorcock
My name is Ulric, Graf von Bek, and I am the last of my earthly line. An unhealthy child, cursed with the family disease of albinism, I was born and raised in Bek, Saxony, in the early years of the century. I was trained to rule our province wisely and justly, to preserve the status quo, in the best traditions of the Lutheran Church.
My mother died giving birth to me. My father perished in a ghastly fire, when our old tower was partially destroyed. My brothers were all far older than I, and engaged mostly in military diplomacy abroad, so the estate, it was thought, would be my responsibility. It was not expected that I would wish to expose, any longer than necessary, my strange, ruby eyes to the light of common day. I accepted this sentence of virtual imprisonment as my due. It had been suffered by many ancestors before me. There were terrible tales of what had become of twin albino children born to my great-grandmother.
Any unease I had in this role was soon subdued as, in my questioning years, I made friends with the local Catholic priest and became an obsessive fencer. I would discuss theology with Fra. Cornelius in the morning and practice my swordplay every afternoon. All my bafflement and frustrations were translated into learning that subtle and dangerous art. Not the sort of silly swashbuckling boy-braggadocio nonsense affected by the nouveaux riches and ennobled burgermeisters who perform half-invented rituals of ludicrous manliness at Heidelberg.
No real lover of the sword would subject the instrument to such vulgar, clattering nonsense. With precious few affectations, I hope, I became a true swordsman, an expert in the art of the duel to the death. For in the end, existentialist that I am, entropy alone is the only enemy worth challenging, to conquer entropy is to reach a compromise with death, always the ultimate victor in our conflicts.
There's something to be said for dedicating one's life to an impossible cause. Perhaps an easier decision for a solitary albino aristocrat full of the idealism of previous centuries, disliked by his contemporaries and a discomfort to his tenants. One given to reading and brooding. But not unaware, never unaware, that outside the old, thick walls of Bek, in my rich and complex Germany, the world was beginning to march to simplistic tunes, numbing the race mind so that it would deceive itself into making war again. Into destroying itself again.
Instinctively, still a teenager, and after an inspiring school trip to the Nile Valley and other great sites of our civilization, I plunged deeply into archaic studies.
Old Bek grew all around me. A towered manor house to which rooms and buildings had been added over the centuries, she emerged like a tree from the lush grounds and thickly wooded hills of Bek, surrounded by the cedars, poplars and cypresses my crusader forebears had brought from the Holy Land, by the Saxon oaks into which my earlier ancestors had bound their souls, so that they and the world were rooted in the same earth. Those ancestors had first fought against Charlemagne and then fought with him. They had sent two sons to Roncesvalles. They had been Irish pirates. They had served King Ethelred of England.
My tutor was old von Asch, black, shrunken and gnarled, whom my brothers called The Walnut, whose family had been smiths and swordsmen since the time their first ancestor struck the bronze weapon. He loved me. I was a vessel for his experience. I was willing to learn anything, try any trick to improve my skills. Whatever he demanded, I would eventually rise to meet that expectation. I was, he said, the living record of his family wisdom.
But von Asch's wisdom was nothing sensational. Indeed, his advice was subtle and appealed, as perhaps he knew, to my aestheticism, my love of the complex and the symbolic. Rather than impose his ideas on me, he planted them like seeds.