THE WAR HOUND AND THE WORLD'S PAIN by Michael Moorcock

THE WAR HOUND AND THE WORLD'S PAIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From a prolific British writer of science fiction and fantasy: a glossy, amusing reworking of various Romantic or romanticized-medieval motifs (the ravishing chatelaine in the haunted fortress, Satan as a tortured tragic hero, the quest for the Grail, etc.), all of it pointing to a moral worthy of an Ethical Culture sermon. Moorcock's tale purports to be the deathbed account of a grizzled veteran of the Thirty Years War, Count Ulrich von Bek. War-weary and bloodstained (he has taken part in the horrifying sack of Magdeburg), von Bek wanders into the enchanted castle and before long into the equally enchanted bed of the Lady Sabrina. But she turns out to be in the clutches of Lucifer, and so for that matter is von Bek himself (because of his war crimes). This Prince of Darkness, however, is no foul fiend. More than anything else he wants to be reconciled with God, and as part of this (hopeless?) dream-enterprise he sends von Bek off to discover the ""Cure for the World's Pain"" (the Grail). After many long and cinematically vivid adventures--von Bek is chiefly plagued by a vicious demon named Johannes Klosterheim who views with disgust the possible rapprochement between Heaven and Hell--the hero finds the Grail, which proves to be a clay pot; and in accents reminiscent of Candide, he declares: ""I have learned, I suppose, an acceptance of my own self, an acceptance of Man's ability to create not sensations and marvels, but cities and farms which order the world, which bring us justice and sanity."" Furthermore, returning home to Sabrina, von Bek hopes that Lucifer and God patch things up, but even more that both these immortal powers simply go away and leave humanity alone: "". . . for until Man makes his own justice according to his own experience, he will never know what true peace can be."" This mushy humanistic conclusion spoils the effect of all the colorful knightly derring-do and its underlying supernatural allegory. But at least Moorcock can write about the devil without making you giggle or (The Exorcist) sick to your stomach. A sophisticated trifle--and of limited appeal to the usual fantasy audience.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Timescope/Pocket Books