Thursday, 30 March 2000

Michael Moorcock: The Steel Tsar (1981)

Edition: Granada
Review number: 465

The final Oswald Bastable novel is, unfortunately, the most disappointing of the three. In it, the hero once more finds himself involved in a cataclysmic war in an alternate universe. This time, the First World War hadn't happened, as Britain and Germany became allies while France declined as a power. Then Japanese imperialism, symbolised by the destruction of the modern showpiece of enlightened colonialism at Singapore, leads to war, and Bastable joins the Russian airship navy. (The success of airships is common to all the Bastable alternate histories.) There, he is imprisoned by the rebel leader Dugashvili, known as 'The Steel Tsar' (and of course, Stalin means steel and Stalin's real name was Dugashvili).

Neither the background nor the secondary characters are as
interesting or as convincing as in the previous novels. Dugashvili is a convenient evil megalomaniac, followed by others for their own ends or because they too are on the brink of insanity. He makes the plot rather two dimensional, unlike the far better (fictional) 'Black Atilla' character of The Land Leviathan.

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