cover image The War Amongst the Angels

The War Amongst the Angels

Michael Moorcock. Avon Books, $24 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97597-6

This sequel to Blood and Fabulous Harbors will not resolve the argument between readers who think Moorcock a writer of sublime genius and those who think he's a peddler of incoherent assemblages of suggestive scribbles. His underlying ""multiverse,"" an infinity of worlds through which ""immortals"" like protagonist Margaret Rose Moorcock can easily pass, is at once a touchstone for wonderful psychedelic adventures and the ultimate writer's cop-out: anything goes. The narrative moves helter-skelter from 19th-century England to WWII, from Texas hills to Egyptian catacombs, through alternate pasts and futures without warning, and at last slips into the ""second ether,"" where a war between ""angels"" of Chaos and Order patterns life on the lower planes. To this wild setup is added an aesthetic license to kill: a stated thematic antipathy to linear thinking. Few authors write more vividly than Moorcock. He employs a lush Romantic style filled with swashbuckling heroes in exotic settings, sometimes turning deliciously satirical and often utilizing footnotes and headlines (but of what?). What seems to be the plot is constantly usurped by aggrandized detail, until foreground and background are confused in narrative cul-de-sacs. Readers familiar with Moorcock's characters and motifs from previous novels, being spared the labor of ferreting out references never spelled out here, may enjoy the book. Those tickled by very literate satire and stylistic experiment also may be entertained by the author, a virtuoso wordsmith and abstract thinker. Folks expecting a coherent story will be maddeningly disappointed. (Dec.)