Elric of Melnibone

Posted: November 26th, 2013

Elric of Melnibone


Most fictional books are on struggle between good and evil. Michael Moorcock however, chooses to delve into power and leadership in his science fiction Elric of Melnibone. The book talks of an albino character whose source of life and strength is sorcery and drugs. It appears as though the author wrote this book for young readers. The fiction brought out is beyond the wildest imagination. It speaks of sorcery, drugs, kingdoms, and monsters and fighting; all of which are intriguing to the young mind, but a little less believable for the adult mind. Like any other book, the Elric of Melnibone has been both praised and criticized.

Book Critique

The book can be criticized as containing too many unnecessary characters. Characters involved are Rackhir the Red Archer, Moonglum of Elwher, Queen Yishana, King Straasha, King Grome, King Lasshaar, Duke Arioch, Sepiriz, Myshella, Theleb K’aarna and Terarn Gashtek among others. The author did not need to use all these characters as their roles in the tale overlap. For example, Myshella and K’aarne both play sorcery roles and help Emperor Elric in maintaining his strength. Instead of using both of these characters, the author should have used just one as a representation of the sorcery world.

The story fails to give full explanations of incidences and reasons behind their occurrence. The inclusion of recurring action packed incidences in the story may be considered as a cause of the ambiguity. An incidence is described of the sorcerer kings entering into a different world while in deep sleep and “consort with angels, demons, and violent, desperate men.” This event and many others are not significant in contributing to the essence of the storyline. Perhaps the writer should have taken only a few incidences and explored them in full detail.

The author also fails to slowly build up the series of events. He ends up pre-empting the outcome of an event that would otherwise be filled with suspense. For instance, when Elric, instead of fighting his own battles, chooses to call for help from Arioch, his patron god. By cutting short Elric’s struggles, Elric, the hero is portrayed as unable to conquer the difficulties he faces. Moorcock could have done better by extending the duration of time it took Elric to seek more help, as this would add more intrigues to events.

Science fictions written in the past are usually based on ordinary humans trying to do the seemingly impossible. This book however, creates non-human beings trying to maintain their power in the world. The author is praised for going beyond the ordinary world, but also criticized as being too dramatic and unrealistic, beyond the imagination of fiction. The characters are all alien-like, leading the reader to think that the views and issues they represent as well cannot be found in the real world. In the contrary, the story is a presentation of a possible future.

The author succeeds in passing across a number of messages. Though the tale is told of a non-existent world with non-existing creatures, it is very much representative of what may possibly happen in the future. The world has for a long time been under the mercy of the traditional superpowers like the USA, Britain, Russia, Japan and the others. These powerful countries by adopting selfish policies such as capitalism, dictatorship and becoming complacent in embracing policies for the benefit of all will eventually fall.

Melbonians come across as arrogant, selfish, immoral and pleasure-seeking creatures. Their selfishness, a trait that is all too common in today’s world, is brought out in the using of slaves to carry out menial duties. Worse still, some slaves have been forced to under surgery to perform specific tasks as singing or rowing a war-gallery. This proves the author’s recognition of the cruelty in this modern world and attempts to come up with a solution on how to survive without necessarily resorting to cruelty. Among the solution finders is Emperor Elrin, who is just about the only existing symbol of morality and conscience in his society.

In an effort to point out societal vices, writers end up preaching and portraying themselves as epitomes of morality. Moorcock has chosen to take a less radical approach without compromising on passing on what he intends. Outright scorning of vices will only repel readers compared to creating a world of fiction, which will captivate and keep readers engrosses until the story’s end. Moorcock embraces the importance of informing the reader while at the same time entertaining.

Writing about the world we live in is not a difficult task; the writer does not have to spend a lot of time in trying to make the readers relate to the story. Fantasy fiction on the other hand requires a lot of thought before a book can be written as the writer is faced with the difficult task of making readers believe in the non-existing world he creates. To a certain extent, the writer has succeeded in doing this. By assigning roles to each character he, enables the reader to be part of the book and even visualize the happenings.


The book has been praised for use of imaginary characters and make-believe places that transport the reader into another dimension. Sometimes it is easier to face an issue when it is put in another context than when someone is living right in the midst of it. Through the book, the author takes us into another world to enable us explore some of these issues. However, the story would have been much better had the author used less characters to represent certain themes, and if he had explained the events in detail.

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