cover image Blood: A Southern Novel

Blood: A Southern Novel

Michael Moorcock. William Morrow & Company, $22 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14362-6

Encroaching chaos brings out the best and worst in human beings and other life forms in this inventive novel built from stories originally published between 1991 and 1994. In an alternate postbellum American South, where the social roles of blacks and whites are reversed, an interdimensional doorway known as the Biloxi fault is gnawing away at the fabric of reality, threatening to absorb the entire planet into the ``multiverse'' beyond. This world is the oyster of Sam Oakenhurst and Jack Karaquazian, both jugadors, or evolutionary accelerations of the riverboat gambler, whose incessant cardplaying symbolizes the effort to impose order on randomness, and whose willingness to take risks sets them apart from the novel's other characters. Their adventures up and down the Mississippi eventually bring them into contact with buccaneer Paul Minci and Rose, the Countess von Bek, a human-plant hybrid whose romantic allure inspires the duo to reflect at great length on the importance of chivalry, honor and other codes of social conduct in these decadent times. The narrative is sometimes too cerebral and static, enlivened only by serial installments of ``Corsairs of the Second Ether,'' a pulpy space opera about the battle between the forces of order and chaos. Moorcock (Lunching with the Antichrist) offers a vision of an alternate South so convincing, however, it may leave readers questioning how well they know their history. Those who appreciated the philosophical dimension Moorcock brought to sword-and-sorcery fiction with his Elric saga will find similar pleasures here. (Nov.)