KING OF THE CITY
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Michael Moorcock made his name writing high fantasies, but as he has grown as an author, he has become more experimental and, often, more mainstream. Moorcock continues to write fantasy, as his recent novel The Dreamthief’s Daughter demonstrates, but he also often turns his attention to the world in which we live. Perhaps Moorcock’s most ambitious work was his 1988 novel Mother London, in which the main character was practically the city of London. In King of the City, Moorcock returns to take a look at London from the 1960s through the 1990s.Moorcock uses the character of Denny Dover, a paparazzo who appears to be based, in part, on Moorcock’s own life to examine the London scene from the 1960s to the present day. Beginning with a look at the life of a paparazzo in the wake of the 1997 death of Diana, Danny reminisces of his life from his early days as a street urchin and sometimes musician to a respected photographer before he became a pariah due to his profession.
While Moorcock's portrayal of London society rings true, it also seems to be limited to a very specific segment of society. There are no bankers or housewives or children in the world through which Denny Dover and his companions move. Instead this is the London of days-long parties and drugs. Denny's life is not merely a series of brief encounters, however. He is firmly grounded in his relationships with his cousin Rosie Beck, for whom he would go to the ends of the earth, both figuratively and literally, and his more distant cousin John Barbican Begg, for whom Denny holds barely conceived animosity.
The London of King of the City is not as welcoming of the city presented in Mother London, which was full of heroic individuals who pulled together in the face of a common enemy. In King of the City, the characters care about themselves and their immediate circle without worrying about the common good. The London Moorcock presents in this book has begun to take steps to become an anonymous, although historical, city.
King of the City will probably have a greater appeal to those who either came of age in the late sixties and early seventies or who hold nostalgia for the period. Unfortunately, for those who are not particularly enamored of the period, King of the City does not entirely work. London is the central focus of the novel and the characters Moorcock includes are not particularly sympathetic. King of the City does not have the strength of Mother London.
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