Still not quite done with this book yet but…
I have a few more observations. First is the bleakness of it. In this world there are two opposing forces Chaos and Law. The reign of either spells the doom of man. Chaos is winning and Elric the “hero” (and, comparatively, to today’s standards he passes as one – he’s basically Conan with albinism who draws his power from his runeblade’s ability to suck out the souls of its victims) must defeat the forces of Chaos and establish the reign of Law. The reign of law will also spell the end of man. This would be the end of magic basically and the warrior man and bring about common man like us.
Something like that.
But either way, Elric and his race are fighting for their own doom. He does not save the girl she dies horribly, etc, etc.
The other observation is I believe Moorcock wrote this either on amphetamines or close to lethal doses of caffeine. The pace is relentless nobody stops for anything. And this includes the author who often did not check to make sure to carry through his character’s action through exposition.
There is one sea battle scene where three of the heroes are treading water amongst the debris of wrecked ships and dark Chaotic forces. Also one of their number is unconscious and is being supported in the rough waters by the other two. In comes their “guide” in some sort of bubble craft. He starts to “info dump” and they are having a page and a half discussion.
After a while I was thinking, “Why doesn’t this jerk let them into his craft, they’re going to drown gabbing away like this.” A few sentences later the writer has them exiting this bubble craft back at the guide’s lair (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me I don’t have all these names on recall) in Nahrain (I think that’s it).
Hold it. What? But they never left the water! And – before any one contradicts me, you are wrong! If you do not take them out of the water, they stay in the water. It is not my job as a reader to, when they suddenly exit this bubble-craft I did not know they were on, to backtrack in my mind, “oh, well, they were on it the whole time!” No, you have just thrown me out of the story.
Another instance was merely clumsy. Elric comes to his wife Zonizoria (its close something like that) who is hiding from the forces of Chaos that have almost taken the whole of the earth. He tells her he must leave, he cannot stay long. And then proceeds to make sweet love to her and to stay all night until the next morning. And the next morning when he is getting ready are his three (or two?) war companions simply waiting for him as if they instinctively knew that even though he had to leave soon, that meant at least a full night’s sleep and making whoopee. Are these characters or things that are just there when they need to be? The way it is written makes it hard to feel anything or care when they later die.
Later on in the book they have to go steal a magical shield from some giant that protects against the maligning forces of Chaos so Elric can get in there and kill the baddies. The giant has known for eons, through prophesy, that Elric would one day come to slay the giant, himself, for this shield. When Elric and gang fight through the giant’s defenses and confront the giant himself, the giant, sad and resigned to his fate (he had been immortal, made mortal and spent eons fearing the encroachment of his death) he asks Elric mercy and lays the sword at his feet.
Elric agrees to let the giant die by the passage of time at not by his soul-sucking blade, and so the giant walks off and Elric picks up the shield and turns to leave. Oh, hell no, thinks one of his compatriots and murders the poor giant from behind – because? Prophesy. Oh, and Elric killed one of his own fighting through the giant’s defenses (and not entirely by accident) so the giant has to die because Elric couldn’t control the power and passionate rage that courses through him when he and his sword are slicing through the flesh and sucking up the soul of their enemy in battle.
That did get a reaction out of me. I felt sorry for the giant, and I thought “man, Moorcock, you dick. you had a nice moment there, but you had to ruin it for a little more blood.” Seriously, I bet George RR Martin worships this guy.
Anyway, that is probably all I’ll write about this book. I will remember some parts of it, but as you can see I can barely remember some of the names as I am reading it. It is not, by far, the worst book I have read in recent years. That still goes to Ann Leckie’s terribly galactic letdown.