Cover of The Land Leviathan

The Land Leviathan
Michael Moorcock
261 pages
published in 1971

The Land Leviathan is the second novel in the Nomad of the Timestreams series, sequel to the War Lord of the air. It tells of the further adventures of Oswald Bastable, who in the first volume had been swept from the year 1903 into the future world of 1973, though not the 1973 of his own world, gotten back to 1903 and met Michael Moorcock, the grandfather, who shares his name with the writer of these volumes, told him his adventures and then disappeared again...

That was the point at which the notes of Moorcock's grandfather ended. It is only after Moorcock's grandmother dies that he finds a safe in his grandparents' house, which contains a packet of writings by his grandfather, as as Bastable's own notes... From these, Moorcock is able to reconstruct the second part of Bastable's incredible adventures, as well as his grandfather's own adventures in searching for Bastable.

It turns out that grandfather Moorcock wanted to publish his account of Bastable's story, but unable to find a publisher, decided to search after Bastable, journeying to China, to the Valley of the Morning which Bastable had told him about, hoping to find him there. He doesn't find Bastable there however, but he does meet Una Persson, whom Bastable had met in 1973, being exactly the same in 1903 as she was then, surely impossible... Via Persson, Moorcock's grandfather gets Bastable's second set of notes and here the real story begins.

The Land Leviathan

After Bastable had left Moorcock (sr) in 1903, he returned to India, attempting to find his way back to his own world. Unfortunately for him, he ended up in yet another world, one that had a disastrous world war in 1904, which had devastated most of Europe and Asia. This had been possible because in that world there had been a scientific revoluition in the 1870s thanks to one lone genius inventing several hundred different new power sources and machines. Utopia could've been in reach, but instead improved technology also meant improved war technology and the old conflicts were still present...

In this world there comes an unlikely saviour, a Black Attila who had managed to united the entire African continent and then went on to invade the other continents to build a new world. Rumoured to hate the white race and planning to exterminate them, but the reality is somewhat different... Bastable is a first hand witness to his empire and later the invasion of the United States, helped by his fleet of "land ironclads", including the terrible Land Leviathan.

The Land Leviathan is quite obviously a commentary on the "yellow peril" and "black peril" novel of the late 19th and early 20th century, with its unthinking racism, love of superweapons and willingness to commit genocide of the "lesser races". Here the formula is stood on its head and the sympathies of the writer and reader are with the "black peril" and its leader, shown as a genuine good man. (Of course, Moorcock is cynical enought hat this new world order is not entirely an utopia.)

The Land Leviathan is not a very subtle book, but the action is fast enough that you do not notice the morality lessons that much. There's no preaching, but the evil Americans certainly do not rise above broad stereotypes -- there are some book throwing moments, if you are sensitive to these things.

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Webpage created 10-12-2004, last updated 29-05-2005
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