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The Metatemporal Detective
Michael Moorcock
Pyr, 370 pages

Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock has published over 70 novels in all genres. These include several series that share, to different extents, a common multiverse: the Cornelius Chronicles, The Dancers at the End of Time, Erekose, The Books of Corum, Hawkmoon: The Chronicles of Castle Brass, Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff and the classic Elric of Melnibone Saga. He has also edited an anthology of late Victorian science fiction, Before Armageddon. Under the pen name E.P. Bradbury, he published a series of novel-length pastiches of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels.

Moorcock was born in London in 1939 and began writing, illustrating, editing and printing fanzines under the MJM Publications imprint at a young age. He became the editor of Tarzan Adventures at 16 (some sources say 17), and later the Sexton Blake Library. In 1964 he became the radical editor of the experimental and frequently controversial British SF magazine New Worlds.

A multiple winner of the British Fantasy Award, Moorcock is also a World Fantasy Award and John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner for his novel Gloriana. He won the 1967 Nebula Award for his novella "Behold the Man." He has twice won the Derleth Award for Fantasy (for The Sword and the Stallion, and The Hollow Lands), and the Guardian Fiction Prize (1977) for The Condition of Muzak. He has been shortlisted for both the Booker and Whitbread prizes, Britain's most prestigious literary awards. Moorcock currently lives in London, Spain and Texas. Moorcock has also recorded music, both solo and with the progressive rock group, Hawkwind.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Wizardry & Wild Romance
SF Site Review: Close To My Heart: New Worlds: An Anthology
SF Site Review: The Dreamthief's Daughter
SF Site Review: Gloriana or the Unfulfilled Queen
SF Site Review: Behold the Man
SF Site Review: Michael Moorcock's Multiverse
SF Site Review: The War Amongst the Angels
SF Site Review: The Dancers at the End of Time
SF Site Review: Kane of Old Mars
SF Site Review: Sailing to Utopia

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

The Metatemporal Detective Michael Moorcock's The Metatemporal Detective is a collection of short stories, many of which follow Sir Seaton Begg, a detective in the vein of Sherlock Holmes or Sexton Blake, and an albino, Monsieur Zenith. The two men play a game of cat and mouse throughout the collection, sometimes in opposition to each other and at times on the same side. For all of Begg's detecting abilities, however, he is never quite sure of Zenith.

As the collection's title implies, their adventures take place through a wide variety of times, from London of the 30s to a more modern setting in the swinging 60s. Similarly, the stories were written over a lengthy period, beginning with "The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius," which first appeared in 1966 through "The Flaneur des Arcades de l'Opera," which appears in the collection for the first time.

Moorcock has set Begg and Monsieur Zenith up as characters who can be recycled in a variety of different milieus. "The Ghost Warriors" sees them as The Masked Buckaroo and the albino Apache war chief known as El Lobo Blanco. This story also fleshes out the backstory of the link between the von Bek/Begg family and the albino, an aspect of Elric of Melniboné. Elric makes another appearance as himself in "Sir Milk-and-Blood," a story of crime, remorse, and punishment with regard to the Irish Republican Army.

The collection's new story, "The Flaneur des Arcades de l'Opera," is an alternate history set in a world in which Texas has maintained itself as a republic and the British helped oust Germany from Poland after Hitler invaded. The story deals with terrorists under the leadership of the fallen Hitler in collusion with the ubiquitous Monsieur Zenith. Moorcock's temporal adventuress, Una Persson, also makes an appearance in this adventure across the road between worlds.

In some ways, familiarity with Moorcock's multiverse is an hindrance to enjoying the stories in The Metatemporal Detective. With the extensive Begg family background which has been fleshed out more and more since The Warhound and the World's Pain, and the various versions of Elric, from brooding sword and sorcery hero of the 60s to brooding intellectual hero of his more recent exploits, it is difficult to fit the stories in The Metatemporal Detective into Moorcock's universe as a whole and might be easier to view these stories in parallel to the characters in other settings.

Moorcock's writing style can vary greatly, although the stories in The Metatemporal Detective tend to gravitate toward the more florid style of the first third of the twentieth century without descending into purple prose. While the language in general is more formal than that used by most authors writing in the early twentieth century, it fits the stories Moorcock is telling and thereby adds to them rather than distracts.

Copyright © 2007 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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