Monday, 26 July 1999

Michael Moorcock: Count Brass (1973)

Edition: Grafton, 1986
Review number: 297

After a few years' gap, Michael Moorcock published a new trilogy to follow on from the Runestaff series, one of his early successes; Count Brass is the first of these. Dorian Hawkmoon has retired to his beloved Kamarg, to run that small region along with his wife, Yisselda. There he mourns his friends who died in the battle of Londra, and brings up a young family.

Several years have passed, then rumours arise that the ghost of Count Brass, formerly the ruler of the Kamarg and Yisselda's father, has returned to haunt the marshes of the region. He died at the battle of Londra, byt his ghost is now saying that Hawkmoon deliberately betrayed him to the enemy for some (rather vague) advantage. Hawkmoon goes to search for the ghosts, to discover the others who also died at Londra: d'Averc, Oladahn and Bowgentle. But they are not the people he knew; they appear slightly different, and to have been transported forward in time from points in their lives before they originally met Hawkmoon.

They eventually work out that two of the greatest scientists of the Dark Empire, who apparently died in an accident during the battle, actually escaped to another dimension. From there, they have transported the four men forward in time to meet the Hawkmoon of their future, believing that he was the only threat to their plans to return and recreate the Dark Empire under their own rule. The idea was to kill Hawkmoon; then, they believed, they would be able to erase the results of his life and restore the Empire to its former glory.

Count Brass is considerably more intricate than any of the Runestaff series, and shows more control of the writing. The earlier work is one of the first in the mature style, but now Moorcock is able to do more complex things with it. The ending is particularly fine, bringing together ideas exploring the nature of perception which form the philosophical background to the novel.

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