Last night I finished one of Michael Moorcock's early novels, his Burroughs pastiche City of the Beast, later re-published as Warriors of Mars. It is the first novel in his Kane of Old Mars trilogy, and a great example of the late/revived planetary romance genre. City of the Beast has many of the features of the planetary romance genre, particularly as influenced by A Princess of Mars and its many sequels:
- An Earthman of military background transported to another world by unusual means
- A world of decadent city-states in conflict
- Barbarian tribes that cause trouble for the city-states
- A world of swordplay and decisive action
- Flying ships and other ancient high tech
- Hints of highly advanced ancient races
- Evidence of moderate religiosity among the varied races and peoples of the world
- Things mistaken for gods, but no direct evidence that the gods exist
Moorcock later identified Kane as one of the exemplars of the Eternal Champion (other examples including John Daker/Erekose, Elric, Corum, and Hawkmoon). We don't see any evidence of greater cosmic forces (or planes) at work in the first novel, but if I had to peg Kane's alignment, I'd say he followed Law.
I can see traces of the later Moorcock in this novel. While some of the naming of races and people evokes Burroughs, there are names like the Argzoon (the race of Blue Giants on Mars) which would be right at home in an Elric novel. We also have a City of Thieves, which reminded me a bit of Nadsokor, the City of Beggars in the Young Kingdoms.
I started Blades of Mars aka Lord of the Spiders, which is the second novel in the trilogy, last night. Hopefully the prose improves a bit as the series progresses. My biggest criticism of the first book is that while it operates in a genre that relies on Orientalism for its core affect, the setting is not quite "exotic" enough.