Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: 'Dying for Tomorrow' by Michael Moorcock

 2 / 5 Stars

‘Dying for Tomorrow’ (192 pp., DAW Book No. 282, 1978) first appeared in Britain in 1976 as ‘Moorcock’s Book of Martyrs’. The striking cover illustration is by Michael Whelan.
‘Dying’ collects 7 short stories that appeared in print earlier in Moorcock’s writing career, during the 60s, and 70s, in SF magazines such as New Worlds.
In the first story, ‘A Dead Singer’, Mo - an unemployed roadie - travels the back roads of Britain in a camper van; his meanderings are spurred by a foreboding assortment of recreational drugs, and Mo’s conviction that Jimi Hendrix, returned from the dead, is traveling alongside him in the van. 

This is a downbeat tale that perfectly captures the disillusionment that gripped so many erstwhile 60s flower-power children as they confronted the reduced expectations of the early 70s. It’s able to stand alongside Harlan Ellison’s ‘Shattered Like A Glass Goblin’ as a cruelly accurate portrayal of the squalor and self-inflicted misery that came with the dying years of the hippie movement.
The next entry, ‘The Greater Conqueror’, is a sword-and-sandals tale of a mercenary named Simon, seeking fame and fortune in the Middle East at the time of Alexander the Great. Simon becomes involved in a seemingly hopeless fight against occult forces seeking to use Alexander as a portal for the conquest of the world. Published in 1962, this is one of Moorcock’s earliest short stories and while the prose lacks polish it’s a serviceable enough adventure tale.
Moorcock’s best-known short story is ‘Behold the Man’, in which a neurotic British Jew named Karl Glogauer travels in a time machine to the Palestine of 28 AD. No one has heard of a great prophet named Jesus, but the local populace think that Glogauer, a strange visitor from some far-off realm, may be someone special in his own right…..This story remains a provocative and well-crafted examination of the intersection of history, myth and religion more than 40 years after its first appearance.
‘Good-bye, Miranda’ is a short (three page) tale of a girl haunted by a rejected suitor.
‘Flux’ is a sardonic retelling of the H. G. Wells classic tale ‘The Time Machine’. In a near-future European Union facing economic and social collapse, the multi-skilled genius Max File is sent 10 years into the future to see what happens, and how it might be corrected. Things go awry and Max finds himself in times and places far beyond the scope of his original mission.
‘Islands’ is an unconvincing story about a schizophrenic young man who seems to experience multiple possible realities simultaneously in time.
‘Waiting for the End of Time’ is a very New Wave-ish tale of the last pair of humans on the last city on the last planet in the galaxy, on the last day before the implosion of the galactic center eliminates all life and matter. There is much metaphysical prose. Like so many New Wave stories that tried to present Entropy as Art, it hasn’t aged well.
In summary, ‘Dying for Tomorrow’ contains a few memorable tales, but on the whole, this collection confirms that Moorcock’s best efforts at fiction tend to be in the novel-length format. Unless you’re a Moorcock completist, ‘Dying’ can be skipped.

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