Friday, 23 December 2011

Review: The Black Corridor - Michael Moorcock

This had been sat on my shelves for a while, mixed in with the hundreds of other vintage SF paperbacks I am working my way through, and I thought it was about time I gave it a go. I am most glad that I did so, as the book is thoroughly engrossing and rather different to a great many other books I have read from the late 1960s. It tells the tale of Mr. Ryan, a man alone in his duties on a spacecraft, working to keep the ship operational for its five year journey while his family and friends are in stasis elsewhere in the ship. Or are they?

Told in a mix of styles from linear narrative to flashbacks, dreams, computer text and diary entries, the book was an odd collaboration between Moorcock and Hilary Bailey, his wife at the time (for more on how the collaboration took shape, visit the book's Wikipedia entry).

On one hand it's a science fiction novel about loneliness, endurance and a gradual slide into insanity, while on the other it is also a story about the break-down of civilization as the Earth descends into genocidal, xenophobic madness.

Either way, it's a fascinating read, and one I would recommend. Some passages are horrific and surreal, while others are stark and thoughtful. The flashback sequences gradually unravel the real plot, which is in turns frustrating and shocking, as characters you thought you knew well are revealed to be much more flawed than you may initially believe. I genuinely enjoyed this approach, and Moorcock handles it well.

There are very few scenes that didn't work for me as a reader, and while The Black Corridor may not be a science fiction novel that all enthusiasts will enjoy, its rather ambiguous ending will ensure the story stays with you long after the final page. You can find the novel easily on eBay and Amazon.

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