The Nomad of Time (Trilogy)–Book 1, The Warlord of the Air

By Michael Moorcock

Heh, heh. You said cock.

This is a trilogy about alternate histories for the 20th Century.

It’s got a framing device that I don’t love, which is carried onto the frikkin book jacket. Sigh. But it’s working so far as an adventure tale, and it’s funny to see how the author imagines 1973. Mick Jagger is a lieutenant in the British Navy, I think.

More interesting? There’s a character in there that could be Han Solo at age 60, if he was still doing the smuggler thing. At least that’s how it appears; I’m only partway through that adventure. I know Han Solo is an archetype anyway, but it’s fun to run into a character that is his precursor rather than the other way around.

UPDATE: April 1
So I finished the first book of this trilogy (all volumes are contained within this text), and, well, it’s more interesting as a time capsule than as a story. I haven’t read enough old popular scifi to know if this stilted style is an author thing, an era thing, or a tribute thing. I think the latter. It’s written basically in the style of H. G. Wells, with one guy who has survived something extraordinary talking–without apparent interruption–about his grief and woes. There’s no real dialogue (of course, in this particular instance, the guy isn’t really going to make a lot of friends–he is alone).

A lone woman appears, barely a character, and although she is purportedly a scientist, she is introduced first as a girlfriend, then as a daughter, and then she’s blown up. There is also a pretty nurse and a receptionist. I really thought women would have had more of a Star Trek kind of liberation, considering it was written in the 1970s, but 1) It imagines a world that the Victorians populated and 2) The ERA stuff really hadn’t taken hold. Maybe the fact that the author is British also matters; I don’t know much about modern women’s lib movements in other countries. The other two books in the trilogy were written at intervals of several years. By 1984 I expect some better speculation of how women influence the world. I mean, that was the Yuppie Power Shoulder Pad Red Business Suit heyday. Kate & Alie and Cagney & Lacey were on TV. Sigourney Weaver had wailed on aliens. Or is it whaled on aliens?

A few more famous people show up in the book, but none as well placed as Mick Jagger, who only got a passing reference as “Michael Jagger.” The other notable addition was the introduction of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. In my simple, giggly, Lebowski way, I couldn’t help laughing every time I saw that name spelled out. But he’s there to prove some politic point, which is that Imperialism is bad, I guess. He’s a character here who has never made it as Lenin. He’s just a geriatric revolutionary living in Shangri-La.

Shangri-La–that is, Dawn City–is definitely out of Star Trek, with a heavy dose of Galt’s Gulch. It’s got the charismatic revolutionary, the technological advancements (like the NFB), the interracial kissing, and free delivery of Chinese food. Also telephones. And that dream of dreams: a monorail. I wish I knew more about the global political climate of the 1960s, because this book is definitely in response to it. My uneducated instincts tell me that empires and colonies separated with varying degrees of violence, and this is an idealized picture of crafty and savvy natives rising up. My uneducated instincts also tell me that a good deal of this was happening in Africa and much less of it in Asia (I’m letting future readers locate shadows of Red China in this book), yet Africa is not mentioned once.

Typical.

Some brown people get bombed. Chablis is the drink of the revolution. So much has changed, so much has stayed the same…

I did learn from someone in a chatroom, who was editing information lest I be traumatized by spoilers (which was thoughtful), that the next two books are more overtly political and that the unfortunately named Moorcock is considered the originator of “steampunk” science fiction. I haven’t validated that steampunk stuff yet, but it’s kinda cool. I didn’t mean to stumble on a progenitor of something. The overtly political stuff doesn’t surprise me. As the space program radically contracted, by the 1980s sci fi moved from the hands of gadgetphiles to social commentators. The glee of people flying around space turned into space being a background for fictional social experiments. Kim Stanley Robinson does a lot of this. It’s really prevalent in the 1990s but it had to start somewhere.

Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? (Cool! or Darn!)

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