cover image The Whispering Swarm

The Whispering Swarm

Michael Moorcock. Tor, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2477-1

Moorcock (the Elric saga) returns from a long hiatus with a new novel that melds autobiography and "secret world" fantasy. The result isn't always perfect, but it is an absorbing look at the history of a genre legend, avoiding most of the postmodern clich%C3%A9s the concept implies. The novel begins with Moorcock's adolescence and young adult years, as he meets fellow nascent writers like Barrington Bayley and John Brunner and takes over Tarzan Adventures before he's even 17. But in this alternate history, young Moorcock meets the seemingly out-of-touch Friar Isidore, and their friendship leads to the hidden abbey of Alsacia, as well as assorted characters straight out of legend. Moorcock's fantastic adventures%E2%80%94cast against his own family and early romantic life%E2%80%94are entertaining enough, but it's really the stealthy autobiography disguised as adventure that drives the story (a section in which he admits that he might have pushed some new writers "where they didn't want to go" stands out). Fantasy fans will enjoy the book on its well-polished merits, but those interested in the history of the fantasy genre will get the most out of it. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. (Jan.)