Well, I can’t say I agree with Michael Moorcock’s dad that the Kane of Old Mars stuff is the author’s best work. Although it’s consciously patterned on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, the pacing of City of the Beast actually made it read a little bit more like Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race. (If you haven’t read Bulwer-Lytton, it might help to picture Burroughs as the stylistic midpoint between Bulwer-Lytton and Robert E. Howard.) In contrast with both of those earlier authors, though, there was nothing surprising in this novel at all. It almost seemed as if the plot “twists” were executed ironically, since they were foreshadowed so obviously.
I mean, I’m always game for a bit of mostly-naked sword-and-planet, and this was efficiently written. It didn’t take a lot of my time to tear through it, and it gave me some pleasant things to imagine. But it certainly pales beside the original Barsoom of Burroughs, or (better yet) the Barsoom-inspired Mars of Leigh Brackett. Formulaic as it might be, it is a formula I enjoy, so I won’t balk at the subsequent volumes. But I don’t expect brilliance there, if the first is any evidence.
Friendly Fire is a pugilistic potpourri of texts by Black, with the author’s resilient animus as its only continuous thread. Even that fades considerably in Chapter VIII: his study of the Johnson presidential impeachment, plus a bibliography of Black’s legal scholarship. He wrote in 1985, “Postering has been my main political activity since 1977,” (171) and posters and poster-worthy one-liners are certainly where he does his best work. In this volume, those are represented in a selection of “Wanted Posters” as well as the pun-replete and epigraphical “Introduction to Neutron Gun.” I can’t help thinking that it’s almost a shame that he disdains an Internet connection, as his writing talents are peculiarly well-adapted to the 140-character burst–not that I follow anyone’s Twitterfeed, nor would Black seem to have any interest in “followers.”
The anarchist “organizers,” Libertarian small fry, publishers, and club proprietors that serve as Black’s principal foes in this volume provide generally less interesting grounds for counter-polemic than Murray Bookchin does in Black’s Anarchy after Leftism. Still, his invective has its usual entertainment value.