Somewhere a piano began to play

The Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock is not what I expected.  The back cover (not that I ever read back covers)  describes it as “the saga of .. Jerry Cornelius, English assassin, physicist, rock star, messiah to the Age of Science, time-hopping anti-hero”, which implies a certain level of clarity in the narrative.  That’s more than I could find.  The story is fractured across all four books, and treats the reader much like a rodeo bull treats its rider.

It’s disorienting to read a book that, from one chapter to the next, jumps unannounced to a different place, a different time, or even a different timeline, often without offering clues about which (if any) of these have changed.  The same few characters show up everywhere, taking on a different role each time.

Imagine 800 pages of The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar, only not funny:

I didn’t like it.  Well, a bit, but only because I’m impressed by how Moorcock sort of ties it together in the end.  Moorcock is one of my favorite authors, precisely he always surprises me.  I’ll read anything he’s written on trust, even if, in this case, it didn’t pay off.  But it certainly was a wild ride.

Instead of this, read Steve Aylett’s surreal satires.  They’re like the good parts of The Cornelius Quartet, only condensed and somewhat coherent.

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