Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book Review: 'The Ice Schooner' by Michael Moorcock

3 / 5 Stars

‘The Ice Schooner’ was first published as a serial in SF Impulse magazine in the UK in 1966, with its first book printing in 1969. This Dell paperback edition (267 pp) was published in October, 1978, and contains revised material. The cover illustration is by Boris Vallejo.

'Schooner' is set on a future earth where the Ice Ages have returned, and much of the planet is overlaid with glaciers. Civilization endures, albeit at a medieval level of technology. Eight cities of modest construction and size still exist in what used to be North America. 

Commerce revolves around the hunting of terrestrial 'ice' whales, creatures whose flippers have evolved to propel them on the surface of the endless ice; ships set on skis, the ‘ice schooners’ of the book’s title, pursue the migrating herds.

Moorcock’s protagonist is Konrad Arflane, a former whaler captain who finds himself, in the novel’s opening pages, reduced in rank and economic standing. 

Arflane is a more fully-fleshed character than the usual fantasy / adventure hero, being a moody, manic-depressive personality; appropriate traits for an individual of Scandinavian descent.

When Arflane rescues a man left to die alone on the ice, it is none other than Pyotr Rorsefne, the magnate of a wealthy shipping firm in the city of Friesgalt. This act brings Arflane into the circle of the Rorsefne family, and a dying man’s commission: captain the ship Ice Spirit across thousands of miles of poorly mapped ice, to discover if the mythic city of New York still exists, and whether the Ice Mother, the deity of this new Ice Age, resides there.

Most of ‘Schooner’ is taken up with the quest of the Ice Spirit to find the fabled city of New York, and the various adventures and mishaps that befall the good ship and crew.

Not unexpectedly with a Moorcock novel, ‘Schooner’ is infused with ambiguity, and departs from the self-confident tone of the traditional fantasy hero narrative. Konrad Arflane is not an invincible leader who strides victoriously through every test, but rather, a troubled man who lacks the imagination to recognize that change is coming to his world.

The descriptions of the hunting and the slaughter of the ice whales are graphic, and carry a note of moral unease. The success of the mission, and the survival of all its crew, is by no means assured; treacherous terrain, sedition, and vengeful ice barbarians all will test Arflane’s ability to bring the Ice Spirit to its destination.

‘The Ice Schooner’ is one of Moorcock’s better adventure novels, and is well worth picking up.


Matthew said...

Conventional printing usually takes around 5 weeks to turnaround a soft cover book, whereas POD printers can turn it around in 2 weeks. If you need to reorder books, POD printers can turn around a small quantity in 48 hours for a rush charge.

Boston Book Printing

Edo Bosnar said...

Hey tarbandu - great site; just discovered it recently and have been poking through your archives and generally lurking. However, since I just recently read "Ice Schooner" myself, I thought I'd comment: I enjoyed the book as well - I really like Moorcock's troubled and conflicted heroes. In fact, I think I'd give it a higher rating.
Also, I have to comment on that amusing and rather misleading cover you posted (the one I read just featured a picture of the schooner): from Vallejo's scantily clad protagonists to that blurb about a "lust-plagued ship", that's some pretty intriguing marketing - makes it look and sound like one of Norman's Gor books...

tarbandu said...

Edo, I haven't considered the marketing angle, but you may well be right: perhaps publisher Dell was aiming at the audience of 'Gor' readers,


tarbandu said...

Edo, I haven't considered the marketing angle, but you may well be right: perhaps publisher Dell was aiming at the audience of 'Gor' readers,