The Land Leviathan

Michael Moorcock
The Land Leviathan Cover

The Land Leviathan


The Land Leviathan is the second entry in Moorcock's Nomad of Time trilogy and it suffers from sophomore-slump syndrome. The set-up is similar to Warlord of the Air, the first novel to chronicle the adventures of Oswald Bastable, faithful soldier in the British Raj who has become dislodged in time, traveling from the earliest years of the twentieth century into either the future, or in this case, into a different version of his own present. And once again, the story is presented by Michael Moorcock's grandfather, also named Michael Moorcock. In the first novel he transcribed Bastable's oral narrative. and it's that transcription that our Michael Moorcock discovers in his grandfather's effects. The document Moorcock discovers this time is Bastable's own manuscript, passed on to Moorcock's grandfather in an over-long introductory section that takes up about a quarter of the novel.

In Warlord Bastable found himself in what to seemed to him to be a utopian 1971. Marvelous inventions such as dirigibles and electric trains made the running of the colonialist enterprise Bastable felt most at home with smoother than ever. It was a world where war was essentially unknown but insurgencies were brewing. That novel chronicled Bastable's education and growing radicalization.

This time Bastable travels into neither the future nor the past, but finds himself in a horribly changed version of his own time. World war has devastated Europe and most of the globe. Western powers are essentially destroyed. The New Ashanti Empire, led by the son of an American slave named Cicero Hood, is sweeping across the globe in airships, submarines, and a new form of land weapon known as the leviathans. Hood's most serious rival is the Austro-Japanese alliance. In South Africa, Gandhi has established the most peaceful, affluent nation on the planet.

Bastable travels through devastated landscapes, works his way to Gandhi's Bantustan, and is eventually assigned as a diplomatic observer to Cicero Hood. Hood's final assault will be on Washington, D.C., in a United States that has degenerated into barbaric racism and despotism.

Moorcock's novel is enjoyable but the plot mechanics are predictable rather than intriguing.