Dancers At The End Of Time

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

Knivesout no more
Nov 11, 2003
Bangalore, India
I'm currently re-reading these novels (in the handy SF Masterworks omnibus edition) and am again discovering just what a fine writer Moorcock at his best is. His swords-and-sorcery, with the exception of Elric, has always been a little hit-and-miss for me, but it's his so-called literary fiction and his non-traditional fantasy that impress me the most. Along with the freaked-out Jerry Cornelius novels, this trilogy stands among his most original, subversive, satirical and flat-out fantastic work.

It's Moorcock's on take on a dying earth milieu, filtered through a Decadent lens. The immortal and nearly omnipotent denizens of the end of time vie with each other in coming out with ever more elaborate fads, crazes and parties, recreating past epochs in various highly anachronistic ways and indulging in every pleasure - and pain - known to living beings. One of them, Jherek Carnelian, decides to try and revive the ancient mysteries of 'virtue' only to be diverted into another archaic spasm, 'love' by the arrival of a time traveller from the 19th century.

The sheer fertility of Moorcock's imagination, the vividness of his descriptions, the variety and sting of his satirical barbs and the sparkling dialogue indulged in by his endtime decadents all make these books an absolute delight. I suspect they'd leave readers expecting some sort of epic fantasy or SF a little nonplussed, but for the reader with no expectations except brilliance, these books may just be the ticket.
This is a great trilogy. Certainly one of my favourites of Moorcock's work. It's quite interesting how it ties in with his other work too.
When I was 15 I excitedly told everyone who would listen that the Dancers at the End of Time trilogy is the only thing equal to LOR, perhaps even surpassing it. Now I'm an old fart and have read thousands of other books, and have experienced life, and now I think that the Dancers at the End of Time trilogy is the only thing equal to LOR, perhaps even surpassing it.
The thing I don't like about Morecock is his books are not readily available here in Australia and never were so I never got to read much of his work, perhaps seven or so books including the 'Dancers at the End of Time' - brilliant.
Morecock is one of those very rare stand alone authors, no one else I have come across writes anything like him.
Agreed, a totally awesome series, not just one of Moorcock's best, but one of SF's best - totally unique.
I liked this series because it was so different. I loved Elric and Hawkmoon but this series had something completely different. People living at the end of time, cocooned in a their own world (and time) as all around them dies - very strange and it worked remarkably well
These were the first Moorcock I read (aside from his Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle novel all those years ago) and the ones which have inspired me to read more. I think it was specifically the scene where we're introduced to dinosaurs made out of various kinds of dessert in the Mavis Ming story which did it for me.

I'm new here by the way, which is why I'm wandering around, blinking, and bumping into things - and it's very nice to see that the listed names of SF authors leads to entire fora rather than just, as I assumed, a single thread on each.
I'm reading these now. Loving the Alien Heat. These books are fast and quite intense, but easy reads. Moorcock sets up the surreal environment very well upfront, so that, once the background is laid out he can then apply a relatively normal and interesting plot without bogging it down too much in the surreal. It's very effective.
Well, I finished The Alien Heat and I thought it was excellent. One of the most enjoyable, funny, original and intelligent books I've read in a long while. Now moving on the the second in the series, The Hollow Lands.
Near the end of The Hollow Lands, and its been another cracker of a book. One thing I'm unsure of, perhaps, is the title of this one. It's a perfectly fine title, as titles go, but 80% of the way into the book and it's not, so far, very relevant to the plot. Yes, Jherek spends some time underground, so there's a literal connection, but that's not the major plot of the novel, and as a metaphor it doesn't apply to this more than the first book in any way, so it seems a bit random to me. Loving the series though...
Okay, so I did a bit of research, and it seems the title The Hollow Lands comes from the 19th century poem "A Last Word" by Ernest Dowson:

Let us go hence, somewhither strange and cold,
To Hollow Lands where just men and unjust
Find end of labour, where's rest for the old,
Freedom to all from love and fear and lust.
Twine our torn hands! O pray the earth enfold
Our life-sick hearts and turn them into dust.

Which is all rather relevant to Dancers at the End of Time after all.
I finished the trilogy last week. The final book, The End of All Songs, is a slight departure from the first two books. It is longer, more thoughtful, more overtly presents a philosophy (one might say it tended toward being preachy), and was less well paced. On the whole I would say it was successful though, and the series of books taken together is a satisfying and thought-provoking read. The last book is very well written I think, despite the slight miss in pacing here and there. Moorecock can certainly write well, and this was as interesting a short fantasy series as I've read. Note that I say fantasy. This is not SF. The setting looks like SF, and with all the time-travel it's dresses like SF, but there's zero realism, or speculation. All the 'science' is really just fantasy/magic, and Moorecock clearly can't quite decide when the end of the world should occur or why, as the date seems to skip around throughout the books and is scientific nonsense in any event. That's not a criticism, just an observation. As a very different fantasy experience, I enjoyed it and would recommend the series.