Legends from the End of Time

Michael Moorcock
Legends from the End of Time Cover

Legends from the End of Time


They're back! Those wacky hedonists Moorcock first wrote about in the trilogy Dancers at the End of Time. Those novels were published between 1972 and 1976. Legends has had various incarnations The 1976 Daw paperback I read contains three stories, but later editions have additional material.

Moorcock's end of time is P.G. Wodehouse crossed with Douglas Adams and something more sinister that he himself brings to the mix. I am not sure how much sense any of what happens in the stories would make to some one not familiar with the novels. Moorcock tosses in some background material by way of explanation, but the reader is pretty much expected to already understand the situation Earth is in these millions of years in the future. The population, as far as we can tell, has been reduced to a handful of humans who can alter the landscape as easily as they can change their hair color. They have adopted high-sounding names of dukes and lords and ladies and live a life dedicated to entertainments put on for one another. They are bored, thoughtlessly cruel, supremely self-satisfied. They have their internal disputes, some desultory love affairs, and just go on. Even death, if dealt with quickly enough, is merely a temporary inconvenience. The planet is dead and on life support from machines that still function in the ancient cities, machines that can suck the energy from entire star systems. This leaves the night sky, when they choose to make it visible, barely dusted with stars.

Time travelers and the occasional alien provide much of their entertainment. Those who don't mix in well get put in menageries. Going home is not an option because of something called the Morphail Effect. It seems the past doesn't want you back and is likely to reject you like a transplanted organ. In one story a squadron of soldiers fighting Earth's war against Alpha Centauri find themselves among this fun-loving batch. Their resolve to keep in training for a war that has ended, in our favor, thousands of years in the past, is slowly eroded by the pleasures on hand. In the longest story, Daphins Armatuce, from the 24th century, arrives with her son, a sixty-year-old known as Snuffles. She comes from a time that has only recently survived a near extinction event, and she lives by a spartan, secular, puritanism. She is outraged by the self-indulgence she witnesses, but can young Snuffles resist the temptations. After all, he is nearing his manhood.

These three stories are entertaining but probably for End-of-Time completists only.