Saturday, 2 August 2003

Michael Moorcock: Blood (1995)

Edition: Gollancz, 1995
Review number: 1176

When Moorcock began writing his vast collection of tales about multiple universes and the battle between Law and Chaos, there was no such discipline as chaos theory. Blood is the novel (first of a trilogy) in which he seeks to use ideas from the mathematics of chaos, particularly self-similarity and attractors, to add to his earlier ideas.

Blood purports to be part of a collection of manuscripts inherited by Moorcock, which (says the introduction) at first seemed disjointed and unconnected but whose overall coherence was eventually perceptible. The two main threads that Moorcock presents are a bizarre fantasy set in the American South and a parody of pulp-era space opera. The fantasy takes up by far the majority of the narrative, and is reminiscent of J.G. Ballard's apocalyptic science fiction. Civilisation as we know it has been changed dramatically by the appearance of pockets of physical chaos around the world; they can be used to provide power, and reckless drilling has spread their dangerous subversion of physical law. Most of the people who remain live as best they can, but there are some, the elite Gamblers, who spend their lives pitted against one another in complex games of chance and metaphysics.

The space opera sections are less serious, and are about a great struggle across the multiverse between two factions, the Chaos Engineers and the Singularity; most of the weapons and mechanisms of travel described have connections to fractals and chaos theory.

Most of Moorcock's writing seems influenced mainly by his ideas about the science fiction and fantasy genres as a whole, and by the writers he loved in his formative years. Blood is, as far as I know, unique in his output in seeming to show influences which are more individual and recent - Ballard rather than Morris and Howard, Banks rather than Peake. The space opera sections have a more general influence. The style of the novel is opaque, quite difficult to see the meaning, similar to but more successful than John Clute's Appleseed. It doesn't all work, but Blood is an interesting experiment.

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