Technically, this book is a trilogy made up of three books: An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands, and The End of All Songs. It is set (mostly) at the end of time and tells the last love story of all time (between Jherek Carnelian and Amelia Underwood).
I read this book in university, and the idea of the "fin de siècle” never left me. The term literally means “end of the century”, but also refers to the end of an era. In the book, it means the end of a time when humans have reached peak decadence.
At the end of time, everything is possible. Every wish can be granted, every desire fulfilled. Aliens visit the earth, but humans don’t leave the planet. Humans have everything they want or need, so ambition and adventure have largely disappeared. Using “power rings”, they can manufacture homes, clothes, food, transportation, anything at all. The only things they can’t create are books and music - a hint that the items being made are illusions, not actual creations.
At the end of time, people want for nothing. But they haven’t noticed that the world around them is actually declining. Their power sources are running out. Their life is not sustainable. Enter Amelia Underwood, a woman plucked from Victorian England against her will and brought to the end of time. Adventure ensues.
I wasn’t sure if the book would hold up, but it totally does. It drags a bit in a few places (it is three books, after all), but it’s such an interesting exploration of time, place and character.
It was a hard book to track down, and I was curious about the author. Turns out, Moorcock is well known; the Times of London has even called him one of the best writers of the late 20th Century. He’s an interesting guy, above and beyond his fiction.
There’s his article “Starship Stormtroopers”, in which he argues that many popular sci-fi/ fantasy writers are authoritarian-loving, bourgeois reactionaries, Christian and/or Stalin apologists (and bad writers to boot).
There’s this interview, in which he slams the genre:
Most fantasy and SF is vaguely liberal, some of it is disturbingly right wing, writ- ten by people who like the idea of slicing other people’s heads oand so on. I was attracted to it originally because it wasn’t a de ned genre, there was very little of it and, like rock and roll, you could make something of your own out of it. If I was a young writer today, I’d have absolutely nothing to do with it.
And also explains why he lobbied bookstores to think carefully about where certain books are placed:
I’m not for censorship but I am for strategies which marginalize stuff that works to objectify women and suggests women enjoy being beaten.
There wasn’t enough water at the end of time, so I’m heading to the beach.