Best 1972 Adventures (8)
October 13, 2017
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1972 adventure novels. Happy 45th anniversary!
Michael Moorcock’s Cornelius Chronicles adventure The English Assassin.
The third of Moorcock’s four novels featuring dandy, scientist, rock star, and adventurer (Buckaroo Banzai, eat your heart out) Jerry Cornelius is subtitled A Romance of Entropy. This is true in two senses: Cornelius is an agent of the cosmic force that opposes culture, civilisation, empire, religion, and other manifestations of order; and the book itself is entropic — a pastiche of stories working at cross-purposes. Cause and effect are out of whack, here; ambiguity is the whole point. Unlike running, jumping, shooting action heroes, Jerry Cornelius is an idler; at the beginning of The English Assassin, he is fished out of the ocean — dead (eat your heart out, Jason Bourne) — and he can barely be bothered to get out of bed, despite such goings-on as a nuclear attack on India and a Scottish war of independence fought with zeppelins… each apocalyptic scenario set on a different version of the Earth. He does stop a peace conference — violently — though. We spend a lot of time with Cornelius’s coterie, including the titular assassin (IMHO) Una Persson. The book’s message, if any, is delivered by Catherine: “Goodbye, England.”
Fun fact: The Cornelius Quartet includes The Final Programme (1968), A Cure for Cancer (1971), and The Condition of Muzak (1977). There are other Cornelius stories, too.
Let me know if I’ve missed any 1972 adventures that you particularly admire.