Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index



to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Steel Tsar

Michael Moorcock

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Steel Tsar

Title: The Steel Tsar
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Novel
Written: 1981
Length: 160 pages
Availability: in A Nomad of the Time Streams - US
in A Nomad of the Time Streams - UK
in A Nomad of the Time Streams - Canada
Le Tsar d'acier - France
in Zeitnomaden - Deutschland

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : entertaining, in large part, but Moorcock too uncertain what he wants it to be

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Steel Tsar begins, like the previous two works in this trilogy, with a brief explanation how the story wound up in the author's hands. Moorcock reveals that he is now regularly visited by Una Persson, who has shared "her experiences in our own and others' time streams" with him -- but has had little to say about fellow time-stream-traveller Oswald Bastable. (Yes, unfortunately Bastable has been admitted to the "famous Guild of Temporal Adventurers" -- which unfortunately has made him less, rather than more interesting (in large part because Moorcock has practically nothing to say about this Guild or its workings).) Finally, she does offer him a Bastable-manuscript; his reaction typifies the rather unimaginative turn Moorcock has taken with regard to the Bastable-tales:

     "Good God !" I was astonished. "He's turning into a novelist !"
       Alas, no -- but at least there is this one final Bastable adventure.
       The story begins in 1941, at the beginning of a Great War. The alternate reality Bastable finds himself in now sees a conflict between, among others, the British and the Japanese, and opens with the capture and ruin of an English outpost and "a Utopia of sorts": Singapore.
       Moorcock can still tell a dandy tale when he wants to, and this one opens well: the first chapter is titled "The Manner of my Dying", and Bastable's long escape from Singapore to Indonesia to, finally, Rowe Island (where he had first encountered grandfather Moorcock in The Warlord of the Air, in a different reality) is fine stuff. He lingers for a while in the multi-ethnic island in the middle of almost nowhere, but even here tensions are rising. Still, until the Japanese arrive -- which thankfully takes well over half the book -- , Bastable's tale is gripping.
       Part two, which begins in Japanese captivity is less of a success. Here alternate history becomes more important, and Bastable has choices to make. Figures from the history we recognize also appear: a very nice touch is that anarchist Nestor Makhno plays a significant role. (Stalin -- the Steel Tsar himself -- also figures prominently.)
       A difficulty, of course, is that not all readers likely are at all aware who Makhno was (there are a number of stories by Isaac Babel in which he figures (though not very sympathetically)), and Moorcock doesn't build him up adequately as a character. Worse, of course, is that Moorcock feels compelled to unleash yet another big, bad weapon, a land leviathan ... oh, no, that was the last novel, here it's called: a Steel Tsar. Vaguely fun though that machine is, it feels very tired both as a literary and a military device.
       There are some decent lessons in the novel -- about inevitability in history and the foolish things men feel compelled to do, even when society fares well. But it feels largely like tacked-on moralizing: most of the fun is in the action in the first half of the novel, not the messy battles and political disputes at the end. Worthwhile, but not quite the novel it could have been (and, at the beginning, promised to be).

- Return to top of the page -


Michael Moorcock: Other books by Michael Moorcock under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Michael Moorcock, born in 1939, is a prolific British author.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2002-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links