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Monday, August 29, 2011

Morlock Night, by K. W. Jeter ($7.99)(c1979)

To good or bad effect, there have been many contemporary authors who have taken the English language classics or their authors and involved them in adventures of their own making. To good or bad effect, other contemporary authors have taken up the dissemination of a new genre, "steampunk." For the most part, steampunk is set in Victorian England. Marvelous, outrageous, and elaborate fictional machines powered by steam are set in motion by these authors to clink and clank their way through (usually) stylish and original adventures.

It is pretty much accepted out there that K. W. Jeter is the father of steampunk, and Morlock Night is his baby.

Borrowing the elements of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, K. W. Jeter has taken the story way beyond where Wells left it. The precious time machine has been co-opted by the evil but not-very-bright Morlocks, with the help of the wizard Merdenne. Not content with ruling the world of the future, they have journeyed back to England in 1892 to begin their conquest. Only the legendary King Arthur can save the kingdom. He must be resurrected and a sundered Excalibur returned to him.

Dr. Ambrose, aka Merlin, has singled out the foppish, whiny Edwin Hocker, an aimless young man in London, to assist him in locating pieces of Excalibur to return to an ailing Arthur. Hocker is paired with Tafe, a young, tough-minded woman from the future. Together they travel down into the labyrinthine sewers of London to attack the Morlocks as they gather their forces.

This is definitely a book that "borrows" a classic book to great effect. Jeter does a good job capturing the language of Wells' book. Written in 1979, Morlock Night appears short by today's standards, but it still has a lot to say and says it well. From the eerie fog-shrouded meeting between Hocker and Dr. Ambrose to the eyebrow-raising denouement, it's a lot of fun.

It's good to see Morlock Night back in circulation.

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