BOOK REVIEW: A CORNELIUS CALENDAR / AUTHOR: MICHAEL MOORCOCK / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Gollancz has been busy reprinting everything written by Michael Moorcock into a set of collectable editions available in both print and eBook editions. As part of that is the 860 page (yes, 860!) A Cornelius Calendar.
Any examination of Michael Moorcock’s work will cover his pure fantasy works (mostly 1960s and ‘70s) and his more literary works (mostly 1980s – ‘90s, but continuing). In the middle of all of this is his quintessential secret agent, superhero adventurer, physicist, all things to all men (and women), the false Harlequin, and English assassin, Jerry Cornelius. Cornelius features in many of Moorcock’s stories and stars in several. This collection isn’t the essential Cornelius reader (for that pick up a copy of The Cornelius Quartet) nor is it everything else (see Jerry Cornelius: his lives and his times). Here then is a mere 860 pages of other works connected to the rock star messiah to the Age of Science.
The Calendar comprises six books, the best being the first: The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century (1976). The rest are The Entropy Tango (1981), The Great Rock and Roll Swindle (1981), The Alchemist’s Question (1984), Firing the Cathedral (2002) and Modem Times 2.0 (2011). A similar collection, also called A Cornelius Calendar, was produced in 1993 and consisted of the first four novels (though the fourth was called Gold Diggers of 1977).
The first story is almost worth the investment alone, and focuses on Jerry’s sister Catherine as she wanders around slices of parallel twentieth centuries with her sometime lover Una Persson. The other titles all have their merits (even if Modem Times 2.0 is a little self-indulgent); for those who don’t know, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle is the book of the Sex Pistols film. At the time it was stated that on being given the chance to write the screenplay, Moorcock just wrote a Jerry Cornelius story instead. True or not, Moorcok’s rock and roll credentials are as good as many authors – he has a long running connection to Hawkwind whose Silver Machine has been cited as an influence on the Pistols. Music aside, (and there is plenty of music in The Alchemist’s Question) all the stories are told in a fragmented style, ensembles of snippets of news, history and moments in various lives. Even if not the most important Cornelius stories, these still justify their place in any serious collection.
Perhaps not a good entry point for newcomers to Michael Moorcock’s writing, this is an essential purchase for anyone who has ever enjoyed a Jerry Cornelius story.
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