It’s good to see Michael Moorcock back in print in attractive accessible editions again. Thirty years ago the man ruled the paperback shelves with numerous titles in print, including half a dozen Elric novels, the Chronicles of Corum, the Jerry Cornelius books… and of course, Hawkmoon.
Moorcock is still in print, of course — but chiefly in expensive omnibus editions these days. You can’t ride your bike down to the corner store, spot a slender Moorcock paperback on the rack with a glorious Michael Whelan cover, shell out 95 cents, and cram that baby into your back pocket like you used to. (And if you can, listen to an old man and take that Hershey’s bar out of your pocket first. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.)
Anyway, my point is, those fat hardcover editions are great for cranky old collectors like me. But they don’t do much to introduce the man whom Michael Chabon called “The greatest writer of post-Tolkien British fantasy” to a new generation. Michael Moorcock deserves to be celebrated with permanent editions of his work, sure. But he should also be available in cheap paperbacks that teenagers can fold in half while they’re reading, mesmerized, on the back of the bus.
The era of the cheap paperback is over. But Tor did the next best thing two years ago, releasing all four Hawkmoon novels — The Jewel in the Skull, The Mad God’s Amulet, The Sword of the Dawn, and The Runestaff — in slender trade paperbacks with gorgeous new covers by Vance Kovacs. Now that all four have been remaindered (selling at Amazon for between $5.60 and $6.00 each, while supplies last), I took the opportunity to buy a complete set.
Collectively known as The History of the Runestaff, the novels follow the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon — an aspect of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion — on a post-holocaust Earth as he travels a world of antique cities, scientific sorcery, and crystalline machines and is inexorably pulled into a war against the ruthless armies of Granbretan. Here’s the description for the first novel, The Jewel in the Skull:
Dorian Hawkmoon, the last Duke of Koln, swore to destroy the Dark Empire of Granbretan. But after his defeat and capture at the hands of the vast forces of the Empire. Hawkmoon becomes a puppet co-opted by his arch nemesis to infiltrate the last stronghold of rebellion against Granbretan, the small but powerful city of Kamarang. He’s been implanted with a black jewel, through whose power the Dark Empire can control his every decision. But in the city of Kamarang, Hawkmoon discovers the power inside him to overcome any control, and his vengeance against the Dark Empire is filled with an unrelenting fury.
The Hawkmoon novels were originally written between 1967 and 1969; the Tor reprints were published between January and December of 2010. Roughly 200 – 220 pages each, their original cover price was $14 – $15; they are currently much less. Move quickly if you want copies; they are selling fast.