Tuesday, 11 December 2001

Michael Moorcock: The Ice Schooner (1966-1985)

Edition: Orion, 1996
Review number: 1009

Although part of the general repackaging of Moorcock's fantasy output around the Eternal Champion theme, The Ice Schooner is not really that closely linked to the other novels. Having a hero and a quest is not really enough; there are few novels in the genre by any author which would share these common elements.

The much revised novel is set in a future Ice Age, so severe that oceans of ice cover almost the entire surface of the Earth. On these frozen wastes sail great ship-like wind powered sledges, hunting the land whales evolved from the sea creatures of our own time. Konrad Arflane is captain of such a vessel fallen on hard times until he rescues a dying man out on the remote ice. He turns out to be the ruler of an important city, but more relevantly to the plot, he gives Arflane a quest, to find the fabled lost city of New York, a vision, in his daughter, and a ship, a great ice schooner, to captain. The voyage to New York is the quest at the centre of the novel, as Arflane and Ulrica fall in love even in the presence of her husband.

The Ice Schooner is quite a minor piece of early Moorcock, even with the later revisions. Its apocalyptic setting is clearly influenced by the ecological disaster novels of J.G. Ballard, but it lacks the satirical edge. In fact, it is an enjoyable piece of straightforward fantasy with an unusual setting.

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