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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Cure for Cancer

Michael Moorcock

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To purchase The Cornelius Quartet

Title: A Cure for Cancer
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Novel
Written: 1971
Length: 250 pages
Availability: in The Cornelius Quartet - US
in The Cornelius Quartet - UK
in The Cornelius Quartet - Canada
in Les Aventures de Jerry Cornelius - France
Das Cornelius-Rezept - Deutschland
  • Available in The Cornelius Quartet (also: The Cornelius Chronicle, see our review)
  • A Cure for Cancer was first published in its revised form in 1979
  • Illustrated by Malcolm Dean

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Our Assessment:

B : neatly conceived, fairly well-done dystopian adventure

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       A Cure for Cancer is prefaced by a note for readers: "This book has an unconventional structure." That it does. Where the first Jerry Cornelius book, The Final Programme, is a fairly straightforward novel, A Cure for Cancer ventures considerably farther, stretching form and function.
       Moorcock also acknowledges that "parts of this novel originally appeared in" several dozen British and American periodicals (everything from New Worlds to Guns & Ammo to Scientific American). Much of this material in fact refers to the title-headings Moorcock uses throughout the novel -- grabbed straight from the headlines, as it were. Most apparently have fairly little to do with the actual content of the chapters, whether they read It's KLM's 50th Anniversary. We Thought You'd Like to Share a Few Happy Moments or My Sleep-Talking Shocked My Husband. Still, they don't appear that out of place, given how much else is also unconventional, including the odd structure (the book is divided into four parts: Diagnosis and three "operations", along with additional medical sub-divisions) and the unusual tale itself.
       A cure for cancer ? Perhaps in some broadest sense, the cancer referring to civilization's own rot, but really that isn't what the book aims to deliver.
       What it does deliver is another Jerry Cornelius adventure saga, more wildly and creatively spun out than the first. The novel begins beautifully: "The time might be July 31st 1970." The place is London -- very much Jerry's town.
       Jerry is still (or again) recognizable, though it is an oddly inverted (black for white) reveler that is revealed. He has moved on from the needle-guns of The Final Programme to the more intriguing vibragun, which can literally shake anything (and anyone) apart. The world is an unsettled place. Geopolitics are messier still than even in our own familiar reality, with Israel, for example, taking over the Balkans. The world is so upside-down that Jerry can claim: "There was no doubt about it; America was the last decent country to eat in."
       "Our family always were great survivors" Frank Cornelius tells brother Jerry, and so they are -- with Frank reprising his bad guy-lead, and beloved sister Catherine a vague presence too.
       Warfare has grown more expansive, and Jerry finds himself dragged in. He doesn't like it -- but everything is relative:

Jerry didn't mind the bombs as much as the rock scene. He wouldn't care what they sent so long as it wasn't Simon and Garfunkel.
       Still, order -- certainly the order established by Frank and his kind -- isn't at all his thing. Jerry would much rather "randomise". He tells Frank: "I'm against History." But even in this alternate History that Moorcock has him inhabit History seems the stronger.
       There's warfare galore, surreal scenes (some wickedly funny), and a meandering plot. Jerry muddles through, in charming, dashing manner.
       An odd adventure, but Moorcock keeps the reader on his toes, throwing in the often wildly unexpected (and often quite bewildering). Moorcock presents the situations and the characters well. It doesn't always seem to add up -- the pieces perhaps seeming more than the whole -- but it is a fun, wild ride.

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The Cornelius Quartet: Michael Moorcock: Other books by Michael Moorcock under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

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

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