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A word on the title character in question: Elric is a an albino elf (the name "Elric" loosely contrived from old Norse meaning "elf ruler") who turns his back on the throne of Melniboné and his own perverted people, summons aid from the demon lord Arioch and other supernatural creatures in desperate times, imbibes drugs to sustain his strength, dabbles in minor sorceries, and wields a sentient black soul sucking blade called Stormbringer. This blade weighs heavy upon him and sometimes acts of its own volition, slaying indiscriminately much to its wielder's dismay. There is much more meaning to the sword, as there is to Elric, and I would encourage any reader of fantasy to delve headlong into Moorcock's multiverse and learn these meanings.
Foreword by Michael Chabon
The foreword is, as one would expect, another author giving praise to Moorcock's work, with a short analysis on some of the themes covered within the writings. He makes an astute observation of Moorcock's rendering of "all heroes as one" and the intertwining relationship of reader, writer, and hero. He declares "The Sailor on the Seas of Fate" to be a minor masterpiece, and on this I must agree (if by "minor" he is referring only to the length of the novel).
Introduction by Michael Moorcock
Moorcock begins his introduction by relating his career in the 1970s, and how the 60s ethics of spreading money around in the art community had carried over to the new decade (he could have made great financial gains off of Elric tales, but instead wrote for anthologies or startup magazines). He reminisces about his times with the rock band Hawkwind and his influence on other bands such as Marc Bolan's T.Rex and Deep Purple.
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate Audiorealms Introduction An interesting offering from 2005, it details how Elric views his own nobility and place among his decadent people, through dream sequence, and why he set sail on the Seas of Fate.
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
Despite not being the title of the collection, this classic sword and sorcery novel is among the finest examples of the genre. Broken into three books, these intriguing tales of high adventure cover Elric's seafaring exploits. In the first book, "Sailing to the Future", he melds with other incarnations of himself to thwart two alien sorcerers--Agak and Gagak--that plan the destruction of the multiverse. In the second book, "Sailing to the Present", Elric finds himself trapped on another world. As the tale unfolds, in an altruistic act he attempts to save a woman from the ancient sorcerer Saxif D'Aan, an ancestral Melnibonéan. She has escaped his grasped, and the sorcerer attempts to pull her back, claiming her the reincarnation of his lost love. In a satisfying conclusion, death ensues. In the third book, "Sailing to the Past", we follow Elric out across The Boiling Sea, to a strange land from whence his people came (though it is detailed in the later work "The Flaneur des Arcades de l'Opera," that Elric's race hailed from another world altogether). Elric embarks on this journey in hope to discover an ancient city, the roots of his people, and uncover his true cultural heritage--before his kin became perverted by demonic pacts and sorcery. Elric undoes a curse, fails to discover the peace and knowledge for which he yearns, but he does earn a short respite to The Purple Towns. We also learn what may be the secret to the death of magic (in Moorcock's multiverse, anyway).
Duke Elric Introduction
Basically, this is an explanation that the version of Duke Elric presented here is a transcript of a graphic novel. Duke Elric was not intended to be read as such, and presented as a curiosity.
Honestly, as warned, reading the story in script format is a bit distracting, but after a slow start I found myself getting more and more interested in the tale. Taking place in 1000 A.D. we follow Elric across England, Spain, and Africa to team up with his dragon Flamefang to confront the legendary Silverskin. Everything seemed consistent until the conclusion where the story shifted abruptly to a future setting called The Terminal Café. I was at a complete loss as to what was going on and seeing it illustrated probably wouldn't have helped. Why the story suddenly became disjointed was an extreme storytelling choice and I don't feel it benefited the tale. I believe it was used to illustrate Elric's effect upon the multiverse in blowing a magical horn, but I can't help but think there could be any number of ways to achieve this end more seamlessly.
Aspects of Fantasy
A non-fiction article in which Michael Moorcock compares drug induced states to the effects caused by early gothic writers such as Radcliffe, and Poe, and later Lovecraft, and how the mental states of their characters reflected upon the setting. This article will be of some interest to scholars of gothic writing.
The Flaneur des Arcades de l'Opera
As with Duke Elric, this offering starts off slow, but builds rather quickly into an interesting tale. We follow a small group of metatemporal investigators into the Paris underground to thwart a plot by Hitler and his cohorts (including a fallen angel)to control the multiverse. Elric appears in the incarnation of a man named Zenith, and is central to the plot resolution. As usual, Moorcock delivers a well written, satisfying tale.
Elric: A Personality at War
Adrian Snook delivers his views on Elric, the psychology of the hero (or anti-hero)in particular, and the philosophical lynchpin of the war between Law and Chaos.
This section (titled somewhat falsely as artwork relating to Elric's early appearances), contains supporting artwork for the material within this compilation. Most notable is the 1976 Whelan cover for "The Sailor on the Seas of Fate".
Overall I give Duke Elric 4 out 5 stars; the classic "The Sailor on the Seas of Fate" being a "must read" for all fantasists.
Click here to buy Duke Elric (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné, Vol. 4), by Michael Moorcock on Amazon
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