With his first full novel in almost ten years (not counting his Doctor Who book), Michael Moorcock - the most influential figure in modern fantasy and science fiction - returns to the city of his birth. London has always been a central character in Moorcock's work, from the high-literary fiction of MOTHER LONDON to the roof gardens of Jerry Cornelius.
Now return to London just after the war, a city desperately trying to get back on its feet. And one young boy, Michael Moorcock, who is about to discover a world of magic and wonder. Between his first tentative approaches to adulthood - a job on Fleet Street, the first stirrings of his interest in writing - and a chance encounter with a mysterious Carmelite Friar, we see a version of Moorcock's life that is simultaneously a biography and a story. Mixing elements of his real life with his adventures in a parallel London peopled with highwaywomen, musketeers and magicians, this is Moorcock at his dazzling, mercurial best.
Moorcock (the Elric saga) returns from a long hiatus with a new novel that melds autobiography and "secret world" fantasy. The result isn't always perfect, but it is an absorbing look at the history of a genre legend, avoiding most of the postmodern clich s the concept implies. The novel begins with Moorcock's adolescence and young adult years, as he meets fellow nascent writers like Barrington Bayley and John Brunner and takes over Tarzan Adventures before he's even 17. But in this alternate history, young Moorcock meets the seemingly out-of-touch Friar Isidore, and their friendship leads to the hidden abbey of Alsacia, as well as assorted characters straight out of legend. Moorcock's fantastic adventures cast against his own family and early romantic life are entertaining enough, but it's really the stealthy autobiography disguised as adventure that drives the story (a section in which he admits that he might have pushed some new writers "where they didn't want to go" stands out). Fantasy fans will enjoy the book on its well-polished merits, but those interested in the history of the fantasy genre will get the most out of it.