This book is another on of Moorcock’s more highly rated volumes. Wheras the other books I’ve read have been political i nature – exploring alternative political versions of the 20th century – in this book the subtext is ethical. To express it a bit pompously, one could say that it explores the conditions for morality. It is also a comedy and a times very lighthearted. It is essentially the same joke beeing used over and over again. Since the story takes place from the viewpoint of the distant future, millions of years from now, highly distorted versions of aspects of history as we know it appear – a favorite of mine was the mention of ”those great lovers, Romeo and Julius Ceasar”. Or when two newly weds annouce that they are off for their Honeymoon – ”it is little more than an asteroid”.
But the core Idea is that at the end of time humans have all they want. They are imortal, infinitely powerfull, have mastered all conceivable types of technology (only time travel is still a bit tricky, but perfectly doable). They can recreate themselvese and their world at will, there is no disease, no war, no scarcity. Everybody can do as they please. Which means there is no morality at all, that is, no one even understands what moral terms refer to.
In this world a women from the 19th century arrive, who obviosly does have a sense of morality, but one that obivously does not compute in the world she finds herself. The question explored in the book could be phrased such – Which is preferable: a life with something to strive for coupled with morals, including its bad sides, or a life where everything is fulfilled but lacks any kind of depth?
The most obvious reading is of course as a critique of our own time – the decadence displayed by the people at the end of time is not unlike that displayed by many in our time. but there is more to the story than that.
The book (in fact three books in one volume) in way to long and there is so much silliness in it, but the last hundred or so pages are really interesting and well worth the read.