Corum's Finale

The King Of The Swords - Michael Moorcock

Well, here I am sitting in my room on the 14th floor of the Park Regis hotel in Sydney killing some time before my play (Henry IV) begins. It's funny, sitting here and hearing all of the sounds of the city drift up from below, particularly since I live in a city and I am sure the same sounds can be heard there (with the addition of the ding, ding of the trams – no trams in Sydney, well, okay, there is one tram, but that goes from the railway station to Darling Harbour).

As for this book, well, I noted that somebody commented that science-fiction is like rock music in that all the the best was written about three decades ago and all we have now are pathetic imitations that are going nowhere. Well, I sort of agree and sort of disagree. With regards to rock music, well I must say that rock music stopped evolving around the mid-ninetees, but that was because it had morphed into what we can call electronica. As for science-fiction, well, I must agree that the genre really stopped evolving around the 1970s and all we seem to get these days are books based on television shows and people trying to outdo Tolkien.

Well, King of Swords was written back in the last decade of the decent era, before everything went all commercial, and while it is not the best of Moorcock's books, it is still, well, quite a reasonable read. This is the last of the Corum books, who is an incarnation of the eternal champion (of which Elric is also an incarnation). The funny thing is that the champions seemed to jump sides depending on the incarnation. You see, in Moorcock's world there is an endless struggle between Law and Chaos (which is probably better than a struggle between vague concepts like good and evil) and the eternal champion plays a role in this war.

It is interesting to consider the idea of a struggle between law and chaos because, well, it is somewhat more realistic to consider. It is a struggle that is all around us, though one might consider that those who back the side of law are not actually interested in order themselves, but rather having control so that they do not have to worry about losing control. Then again, as we in liberal democracies know, we want to be safe, we want our lives to be predictable. We don't want bombs going off everywhere, and we want to be able to go down to the local shopping centre without fear of being shot down by some madman with a machine gun. That, my friend, is law.

However we also want freedom. We want freedom to be able to commit adultery, to be able to eat what we want, and to be able to exploit who we want. Okay, we may not be consciously exploiting anybody, but we want our coffee to be cheap, and we don't particularly care how the guy who grows it lives, as long as it is hot, and as long as it tastes the way we want it to taste. In a sense, the desire for freedom is in effect chaos, because what law does is that it restricts our ability to be free. Law is good, as long as everybody else obeys it and nobody comes and stops us from doing what we want to do. As for a war between good and evil, well, as I have suggested, that is just purely ambiguous, because good is basically what we like and evil is what we don't like, meaning that anybody that disagrees with us, and attacks us because of that disagreement is, well, evil.