from the shelf #004, we have:

a messiah at the end of time

and I do mean to point out that it is this edition. While the British cover is in fact a little bit more cool, its initial publication title was very boring.

Michael_Moorcock_The_Transformation_of_Miss_Mavis_Ming

I can tell you one thing. She does not become that dinosaur. It’s kind of a disappointing read.

But, I mean, it is kind of important to let us know that Mavis Ming is going to change, because, well, she’s by far the most boring character in here, and gets most of the focus. Whereas the rest of the cast spends its days at the end of time attending irrelevant parties and shifting their malleable landscape with unlimited power rings (and no enemies to use them against), Mavis spends her time thinking that she’s not good enough for everyone else around her.

It’s also interesting that this is the book with the epigraph “A Poet of Science Fiction”, because it is one of Moorcock’s two very notorious revisions of his own work. While a complete list can be found here, in every instance except this novel and the Elric tale, “Gloriana”, the revisions came from publishers unwilling to buy his manuscripts, or copyright law forcing him to rewrite real historical people as fictitious characters, or just him seeing some name changes and incompatible plot points as his epics became multiversal.

In those two books, he was just so shocked by what he himself had written that he felt compelled to change them, both very soon after their initial publication. Gloriana, definitely being the worst, has a woman achieve an orgasm for the first time during forced sexual intercourse. While I haven’t read it, Moorcock wrote that his intent in writing that chapter is to show that “something good can come out of evil, just as something evil can come out from good.” It took about two months for him to see the errors of his ways, and rewrite that chapter in the book’s next immediate printing.

This book, while not culminating in a rape scene, or a very sexual one at all, does culminate in a whipping scene completely free of any sexual intercourse where the female, (the recently transformed Miss Mavis Ming), calls her kidnapper, and unrequited lover, by the name “Master” by the end of the book. It is a very jarring six page finale to the book, otherwise stupendous in its journey across The End of Time, one of Michael Moorcock’s greatest creations. A great novel until that point, it portrays the decadent moments before the end of the world as post-excitement.

Every moment seems like a wry moment at a cocktail party where some petty act of jealousy is of the utmost importance, because the least effort has been expended to find that emotion. They have power rings to teleport themselves anywhere, even construct doubles of their bodies (for threesomes, mostly): the kind of world where a man choosing to love a single woman is seen as a rebellion against the status quo. Where people like Abu Thaleb construct parties of his elephantine enthusiasm. Ah, but I should stop summarizing.

Remember my purpose in writing these reviews is to write words that were not written before. I am going to present a defense of this book’s original ending (although it really would benefit from some better characterization, but that’s for a couple paragraphs down). Although I have no idea how racy and ridiculous Gloriana gets, I can say with certainty that this book’s ending is not entirely clear cut, and the obsequiousness of Miss Mavis Ming to her kidnapper results more from a self protective desire to keep him from harming her more rather than her completely understanding and falling in love with him.

Let me explain.

The Book, at its heart, is about a world that doesn’t need saving when it is visited by someone who thinks it needs saving. As explained earlier, there are so few people left on earth and all of them have such high levels of power that danger has left their lives and they’ve become immortals, even time traveling when the energy lets their feet leave their bedrooms surrounded by a fortress.

See, the human race was decimated by an alien invasion, subjugation, and colonization that no one can really remember, but they left Earth soon after they had successfully colonized it, leaving plenty of riches in the hands of a few.

Evolutionary Amnesiacs with the powers of Gods. That are just awaiting the End of the World as the universe continues its (assured and verified) collapse inward. Hence all the time-traveling, which actually means that they can just hide in the past for awhile (and they often do), but those books are the subject of another matter.

This is a book about Miss Mavis Ming, one of the few people who live on the world without power rings or the ability to travel in the past. She approaches the apocalypse on its terms (and time), instead of her own.

As the American Edition more correctly configures, this is actually a book about the time traveler called The Fireclown, who claims to be an aspect of The Eternal Champion, that recurring Bodhisattva freeing humanity form its oppressors. Simply put, no one in the decadent future wants to be saved. They’re more interested in seducing their own mother.

It’s a filthy world, and Miss Mavis Ming comes across as one of the few who feel the blows. Abu Thaleb, too, the man pleasantly obsessed with elephants, offers tranquility to the narrative and wisdom to the reader, but the rest of the novel is filled with a despicable cast looking to pursue their own gain.

It also has one of the best villain lairs this sci-fi fan can think of. Doctor Volospion, the man who lures the Fireclown, who may or may not actually represent the Eternal Champion, seeks to keep this annoying messiah among his many other time traveling prophets who have sought the wisdom of the end of time, and found a variable holographic simulation of the entire world as it has been a pleasurable alternative to returning to a world that will meet its eventual fate.

It’s a harem of pleasure for the noble.

Or it’s just something Doctor Volospion calls a harem for the noble, but they may see it as incarceration. We never get to hear their side of the story, actually, in the novel. And there are plenty of denizens.

Either way, it is also a store-ground of historic artifacts. Among the many once spiritual items, we have Hugh Heffner’s single, mummified testicle, as well as the holy grail. And in between each of these are more defensive forcefields and servants with power rings from across every time period of Earth, dinosaurs as well as aliens patrol his halls.

And, before this starts to seem like a synopsis of the novel, well, you’re forgiven. I just wanted to give this summarization of the book because it actually has so many wonderful ideas within it. I don’t want to ruin all of them, even, and there are plenty more to find. The thing is, the book doesn’t involve many of these details within its narrative. It seems that as much ennui as the worlds denizens have, so, too, does its storyteller.

All of which makes the ending of the sado-masochism book that much more of a left turn switch, as we have the same moment of decadent pleasure that Volospion and many others cherish: we are powerless to stop the torture of Miss Mavis Ming.

Those that deride the book do so saying that it validates sado-masochism. This is only the case if The Fireclown is actually an aspect of The Eternal Champion, which he may not be. Michael Moorcock has never spoken on the issue, and, heck, I may shoot a Q into the Multiverse.org soon to get a straight response, but, to me, he doesn’t seem to actually be an Eternal Champion.

So, instead of being a sexist novel, this is just a sad novel of how hard it is to change the world’s master-slave relationship.

She has been tricked by Volospion, and is suddenly the Fireclown’s captive. The Fireclown tricked Volospion with an inauthentic religious artifact, and he will remain suspicious his entire life that it is not the real deal. The only person who ends up with a bad deal is Miss Mavis Ming, and, well, she’s in a spaceship hurtling through time and space in the spaceship of a very powerful warrior. It makes a little sense that she’d want to seem to enjoy being around him to escape his wrath. Perhaps if Leia entertained Jabba The Hut better, they would not have been so violently executed so quickly, and Boba Fett could have lived his life to the fullest.

Sad Boba Fett outside New York Comicon.

Ah, but the lament of Boba Fett is for another day.

This is about Miss Mavis Ming, who, once before in the text, thinks that if a woman scratches a man, he is quick to forget the times that he bruised her. Because she gave him the chance to make it up to him.

And the final line of this novel regards The Fireclown attending to her wounds.

I can see why some people see this as enforcing the stereotype that all relationships are about this power struggle, and, indeed, there is a heavy moment in the final two pages where the real holy grail appears, seeming to bless them in marriage.

From the man who has tricked everyone, and, especially, the man who has built an elaborate and unverifiable story about The Holy Grail, has a magic, shiny cup appear to anoint their marriage, we are supposed to see him as The Eternal Champion? Couldn’t he have just planted the seed of the real holy grail in Miss Mavis Ming’s mind by talking about it to Volospion, and then have his spaceship (which we really know nothing about) conjure a similar moment to trick Ming into seeing Divinity for the first time?

It’s an interesting question the text poses to us, and certainly one that doesn’t go on for long enough to answer.

But I don’t think it answers it in any annoying, pedantic manner. It just presents the subtle deception of a woman “finding the right man” instead of the other way around. And the fact that it hits the cheesy sado-masochism bottom of the used book store romance novel style in the last few pages, well, that only adds to the perspective of the storyteller, perverse in the ways of The End of The World.

It’s a shame it’s becoming more difficult to become ambiguous.

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