Review of The Cornelius Chronicles by Michael Moorcock
The Cornelius Chronicles
by Michael Moorcock
I’m not the right person to read this, at least not right now.
I know it’s kind of my hang-up to turn everything into a generational thing, but I think that’s in operation here. I didn’t live through the 1960s or the 1970s. I don’t get what the political climate was like then, either in North America or in Europe, and I come to New Wave science fiction experiencing everything second hand. That doesn’t mean one needs to be of that age to grok or even enjoy books like this—but I suspect those readers have a bit of a head start. As it is, Moorcock’s constant reference to sex and drugs are baked into a zeitgeist I could never take part in. Sex and drugs are themselves rather constant, yes, but their modes and moods change with the times, and the Cornelius Chronicles of the twenty-first century would probably look different from the ones written in the 1960s.
As I attempted, however diligently, to make my way through this 974-page behemoth of a collection, I found myself turning too often to my dad, who was sitting next to me at the baseball games where I tried reading this, and said, “This book makes no sense.” But I understand that’s kind of the point, and to criticize it entirely for that reason would be, if not unfair, then missing the point. However, I can’t bring myself to finish it. I cannot just keep stumbling from page to page with absolutely no idea, none whatsoever, of what is going on, because it seems like every page the characters are different, with different motivations, like they’re all following a script we never get to see. One moment a character is an enemy, and then suddenly they’re an ally, and I have no idea what is going on. I get there are multiverse hijinks happening, but they are too inscrutable for my pay grade.
So there you have it. I wish I were the right kind of person to like this book, or at least to finish it, but I don’t think I am. So I won’t make myself. I make myself finish a lot of things, and sometimes that results in a very fun bad review. But The Cornelius Chronicles aren’t worth it—I don’t think I bring myself to hate them, and I don’t want to read another 500 pages to find out.