|White Wolf 1998, Art: John Bolton|
"…it seemed to me just then that it wasn't a good idea to be talking about the breaking down of genre conventions whilst producing a trilogy of romances which exemplified, even exalted, those conventions…so I gave the publisher a choice of titles and combinations of names and eventually there appeared, under the unlikely name of Edward Powys Bradbury, the books originally published as Warriors of Mars, Blades of Mars and Barbarians of Mars."However, although Moorcock distanced himself and New Worlds from the juvenile-aimed Mars romances, sales of these books actually went towards paying his sophisticated New Worlds contributors good rates. As is typical for many artists, appealing to the masses allowed Moorcock to indulge in more passionate (but less profitable) projects.
- New Introduction To The 'Michael Kane' Series (1977/80)
Writing the Mars Kane trilogy was also a fun exercise for the young writer. Although Moorcock had already written the Sojan of Zylor episodes, the Kane books were a more perfected rendition of that kind of Burroughsian adventure fantasy, and helped Moorcock develop a long form structural technique which would come in very handy when it came time to write the subsequent Hawkmoon and Corum books. The Mars Kane trilogy was written in just over a week, and this kind of discipline also allowed Moorcock to churn out the subsequent fantasy sequences in similarly compressed time-frames.
Compact 1965, Art: James Cawthorn
Warriors of Mars / City of the BeastIN BRIEF: Scientist-swordsman Michael Kane is teleported to ancient Mars in a freak matter-transmission lab accident. There, he helps the beautiful Princess Shizala defend her city from the giant blue-skinned Argzoon. When Shizala is kidnapped by Horguhl, the Argzoon’s mysterious seductress leader, Kane journeys to the Black City of the Argzoon and eventually leads a slave rebellion to overthrow Horguhl’s unnatural rule. Unfortunately, just before Kane is about wed Shizala, he is pulled back to Earth of his own time.
No Country For Old Gods
Compared to Tolkien's epics (or even his own Eternal Champion books), Moorcock does not spend much time here on world-building or mythology. In fact he wastes no time before having Michael Kane declare that Shizala's people have no religion to speak of. The only sign of an "elder race" comes in the form of the Sheev and the Yaksha, but these beings never actually come to the stage. Essentially, most of the cultural trimmings are pushed aside to make way for the swashbuckling action.
Lancer 1966, Art: Gray Morrow
Blades of Mars / Lord Of The SpidersIN BRIEF: Kane builds a device to take him back to Mars. While attempting to help a blue giant named Hool Haji restore proper rule to his realm of Mendishar, Kane discovers the ruins of an ancient Yaksha tower complex. In order to escape the degenerated creatures of the complex Kane builds an air ship. Kane and his friends then fight a race of radiation-mutated spider-men (man-spiders?), and eventually use the spider-men's venom to defeat the usurper of Mendishar. Afterwards, Kane learns that Horguhl has mesmerized the people of Mishim Tep into making war against their allies the Varnal. He infiltrates Mishim Tep and then uses the Mirror of Truth to force Horguhl to confess to her manipulations.
DAW 1979, Richard Hescox
Barbarians of Mars / Masters of the PitIN BRIEF: When ancient technology unleashes a plague (the Green Death) on the people of Cend-Amrid, Kane and Mendishar blue giant Hool Haji head to the ruined Yaksha tower complex (discovered in the previous book) to search for a cure. After capture and escape from Bagarad pirate barbarians, they become involved in a conflict between a race of mutated winged men (the First Masters) and their mutated pets (the dog-like Hahg and the cat-like Purha). When a diseased mob from Cend-Amrid eventually heads towards Varnal, Kane and his friends opt to abandon their city rather than slaughter the pitiful horde. Fortunately, an innocuous capsule artifact rescued from the Yaksha complex apparently proves to be the cure they have been looking for.
Talk or Die
As opposed to the casual dismemberment and general bloodthirstiness present in the Elric and Erekosë sword romances, Michael Kane sometimes tries to disarm his opponents with a hilt-snagging technique learned from an old French military friend. Of course for the more ghoulish creatures such as those infesting the Yaksha tower there's still mounds of corpses, but if his adversary can at least talk there's a chance Kane will spare him (as he does in the first book with the Argzoon warrior Morvat Jard).
"...in the final volume I had the added fun of trying to make my protagonist actually behave according to the code John Carter was always talking about and rarely seemed capable of sticking to. He hated killing, he said, but he managed to get through a score or two of assorted antagonists per volume!"Moorcock's comment above probably relates to the ending where Kane proposes a more passive stance against the approaching threat (the diseased horde). Instead of attacking the defenseless mob, Kane and his adopted people abandon their homes and find refuge in the mountains. Of course, a deux ex machina solution does eventually present itself, but it would have been very interesting to have had the story end with the protagonists eking out a bleak existence in the mountains while the degenerate invaders enjoyed the beauty of the royal city...
- New Introduction To The 'Michael Kane' Series (1977/80)
In the first chapter of this installment Moorcock has some fun inserting backwards-spelled names of magazines, editors and writer friends in the form of place names in his Martian landscape (fandom, Analog magazine, John W. Campbell, JG Ballard, Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, M. John Harrison).
“Have you not heard of the Flowers of Modnaf? They are attractive at a distance but highly dangerous when you come close to them...Many have been trapped by these flowers and their vitality sapped, leaving them dry of everything human, to become mindless creatures wandering eventually to the quicksands of Golana, where they are sucked down slowly and never heard of again."
As I nursed the engine along, Hool Haji told me the story of an old, desperate man who had once dreamed of power, one Blemplac the Mad, who was still supposed to wander below.
"That is an island called Drallab," Hool Haji explained. "It's folk have only rare contact with their neighbors, but though they appear to play little part in the activities of the other islands they exert a great artistic influence on them and are really extremely benevolent."
Another island appeared. This was a strange-looking place of peculiar contrasts for so small an island...This was K'cocroom, Hool Haji informed me, an island that had only in the last few years emerged from the lake and was still largely unpopulated, though the few people who lived there seemed a folk of strange contrasts, sometimes friendly to strangers, sometimes not. There was S'Sidla, a gentle landscape of strong, straight trees and rich, dark glades, and Nosirrah, a rugged, healthy looking place with, Hool Haji informed me, great treasures yet un-mined.
Paizo 2007, Andrew Hou
Back to the FutureFor some reason or another, Moorcock never really incorporated Michael Kane into his Eternal Champion multiverse (aside from a name-check possibly somewhere). I think the reason may be because these books don't really have any kind of a subtext, such as one addressing a struggle between Law and Chaos (aside from the 3rd volume's grotesque satire on conservatism embodied in the ruthlessly-logical ruling society of Cend-Amrid). Because the characters here are less complex than someone like Elric or Jephraim Tallow (the characters don't spend much time examining their beliefs, for example), these books are romances in the most genuine sense. Nonetheless, I wouldn't have minded seeing psychic villainess Horguhl pop up in an Eternal Champion book...offhand I can't think of anybody quite like her in the Elric, Hawkmoon or Corum books. Perhaps Jerry Cornelius...
I think the best way to approach Kane of Old Mars is to see it as a stepping stone towards the more pointed and soon-to-follow Hawkmoon Runestaff quartet. Although Moorcock had by this time already presented the apocalyptic heroic fantasies of Elric and Erekosë, it seems appropriate that the Kane trilogy acts as a step back towards a more innocent kind of romance, before using the Runestaff quartet to once again stretch the seams of the genre. I think it's not a coincidence that Moorcock's bibliography itself exhibits a kind of oscillation ("swaying of the Balance") between genre and modern literature.
Kane of Old Mars Wikiverse
Warriors of Mars / City of the Beast Wikiverse
Blades of Mars / Lord Of The Spiders Wikiverse
Barbarians of Mars / Masters of the Pit Wikiverse
Next Chapter: The Ice Schooner
(Previous Chapter: The Roads Between the Worlds (1964-66))