Jerry Cornelius is a scientist, a rock star, and an assassin. He is the hippest adventurer of them all: tripping through a pop art nightmare in which kidnappings, murder, sex and drugs are a daily occurrence. Along with his savvy and ruthless partner-in-chaos, Miss Brunner, Cornelius is on a mission to control a revolutionary code for creating the ultimate human being, a modern messiah— the final programme.
The first book in the Cornelius Quartet is the groundbreaking introduction to the misadventures and vendettas of Jerry Cornelius, one of modern literature’s most distinctive characters, the product of a bewildering post-modern culture, and an inspiration for generations of characters since.
"Michael Moorcock, rechazando las disputas de límites que han reducido la novela a una confusión de subgéneros en conflicto, recobra en estos cuatro volúmenes una vitalidad y una amplitud proteicas que pudieran llamarse dickensianas si no pertenecieran tan por completo a nustro tiempo volátil. En verdad, ninguna obra reciente de ficción ha manejado mejor las contingencias vertiginosas de la imaginación del medio siglo que esta brava arlequinada de juegos de identidad, realidades falsificadas, historia paródica, y un pobre y ordinario apocalipsis" (W.L. Webb, The Guardian).
"Moorcock ha creado una figura capaz de moverse a través de las versiones míticas de los problemas de hoy, sin intentar situarlas o situarse a sí mismo en contextos simplificados. Una ficción semejante, en un mundo de imaginación escasa, es un don necesario" (Harpers Bazaar)
Michael Moorcock nació en Inglaterra, ha publicado más de 50 libros y fue animador principal de la célebre revista New Worlds, que introdujo el término "ficción especulativa"; una literatura "moderna, coherente y vital".
En EL PROGRAMA FINAL, primera de una serie de cuatro novelas independientes, anticipa la herencia decepcionante y caótica de la década del 60, un dorado presente en el que todo parecía instantáneamente posible.
Michael John Moorcock is an English writer primarily of science fiction and fantasy who has also published a number of literary novels.
Moorcock has mentioned The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw and The Constable of St. Nicholas by Edward Lester Arnold as the first three books which captured his imagination. He became editor of Tarzan Adventures in 1956, at the age of sixteen, and later moved on to edit Sexton Blake Library. As editor of the controversial British science fiction magazine New Worlds, from May 1964 until March 1971 and then again from 1976 to 1996, Moorcock fostered the development of the science fiction "New Wave" in the UK and indirectly in the United States. His serialization of Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron was notorious for causing British MPs to condemn in Parliament the Arts Council's funding of the magazine.
During this time, he occasionally wrote under the pseudonym of "James Colvin," a "house pseudonym" used by other critics on New Worlds. A spoof obituary of Colvin appeared in New Worlds #197 (January 1970), written by "William Barclay" (another Moorcock pseudonym). Moorcock, indeed, makes much use of the initials "JC", and not entirely coincidentally these are also the initials of Jesus Christ, the subject of his 1967 Nebula award-winning novella Behold the Man, which tells the story of Karl Glogauer, a time-traveller who takes on the role of Christ. They are also the initials of various "Eternal Champion" Moorcock characters such as Jerry Cornelius, Jerry Cornell and Jherek Carnelian. In more recent years, Moorcock has taken to using "Warwick Colvin, Jr." as yet another pseudonym, particularly in his Second Ether fiction.
The Final Programme is the first volume in British author Michael Moorcock's The Cornelius Quartet. The other novels in the tetralogy are A Cure for Cancer, The English Assassin, The Condition of Muzak.
The Final Programme surely ranks among the top ten New Wave SF novels from the 60s. However, it must be noted, this Michael Moorcock genre-bender does not fit into any clearly defined category, science fiction or otherwise.
The Final Programme starts off as fast-paced action thriller and then shifts gears to set the world record for most philosophic reflections and cool images in a novel of 250-pages.
The novel's main dude is twenty-seven-year-old hip, wealthy Londoner Jerry Cornelius driving his Duesenberg luxury sedan, sporting the latest mod fashion and packing a deadly needle-gun (among the SF elements). Yes, yes, yet another of the author's Eternal Champions with the initials JC.
But what Jerry doesn't possess is his inheritance - precious microfilms to unlock the secrets of the universe. Jerry's drug-experimenting brother, diabolical Frank won that honor since Jerry's father discovered Jerry having sex with sister Catherine. That's right - incest. Any doubts we're reading a 60s novel pushing sexual boundaries?
Oh, how Jerry would love to get his hands on that precious microfilm. As does a Miss Brunner and a number of her metaphysically inclined, eccentric friends. And to add fuel to his brotherly revenge, Jerry plans to rescue dear sister Catherine currently held captive by dastardly Frank.
Ah, revenge! Jerry heads up an attack against Frank and Frank's small army of German mercenaries walled up in a Le Cobusier-style château along the coast of Normandy, a fortress their father constructed many years prior to the Second World War. Thus, the first portion of the novel is full throttle action thriller.
But fear not, the mighty Moorcock goes on to hurl so much at a reader beyond a mere James Bond adventure. As a way of sharing a tasty taste, here are some scrumptious Final Programme yummies:
Supreme Statement Is the Final Programme of The Final Programme the ultimate equation for the ultimate computer program? I wouldn't want to spoil by even hinting at what this could mean. But I'll give you one hint: keep your eye on Miss Brunner.
Playful Parody Michael Moorcock absolutely refused to be pigeonholed by any label or genre. Recall that stock Western phrase, "Throw down your gun and come out with your hands up." Well, the author plays off the cowboy command when he has Jerry tell Frank, "Throw in your needle and come in with your veins clear."
A careful reader will detect Michael Moorcock repeatedly poking fun at Golden Age pulp science fiction with its Buck Rogers rocket ships, good guys vs. bad guys and hideous Martians chasing scantly clad busty beauties.
Pop Culture Jerry reads the comics, eats Mars bars, listens to The Who and The Beatles (natch,) plays pinball but still has the mental acumen to publish a paper on unified-field theory. Even during an exchange of ideas on cosmology there's the constant blare (real or imagined) of guitars and drums. Turning the pages of The Final Programme, you can almost hear the thumping beat of The Who's Tommy, Pinball Wizard switching back and forth with the Fab Four's Come Together, Let it Be and Strawberry Fields Forever.
Crash "Instead there was a photo covering the whole side: a mass car smash with mangled corpses everywhere. Jerry supposed that the picture sold sheets." One of Michael Moorcock's preoccupations: the struggle of order vs. chaos. It's no coincidence The Cornelius Quartet published within the same time frame as J. G. Ballard's Crash. Slick modern automobiles as symbol for both life-giving freedom and death-dealing tragedy - order vs. chaos coming to a dealer near you.
Vampires Jerry muses, "He found that he didn't need to eat much, because he could live off other people's energy just as well." An ongoing theme in the novel: the transfer of energy from one person to another, one object to another, in the context of Hindu cosmology, physics, astrology, vampires, you name it.
Seriousness Kills The last thing our British author wants is for one to read his Cornelius Quartet without a sense of humor. Seasoned throughout Final Programme are quotable laugh lines, such as, "He would certainly kill Frank when they raided the house. Frank's final needle would come from Jerry's gun. It would give him his final kick - the one he kept looking for." James Bond meets another great JC - John Cleese.
Miss Brunner, Ally or Adversary? Miss Brunner might be more than she appears to be. Jerry senses this when he says, "Miss Brunner, if I hadn't been through my theological phase, I'd be identifying you as first suspect for Mephistopheles" To which, Miss Brunner replies, "I haven't got my pointed beard. Not with me."
Ha! Beware, Jerry. As Arthur Schopenhauer was fond of repeating, "Whoever expects to see devils go through the world with horns and fools with jingling bells will always be their prey or plaything."
However, Jerry is wise enough to recognize that he can't fit Miss Brunner in with Homo Sapiens. When Miss Brunner, dear lady, hears Jerry voice these words, she acknowledges that she doesn't fit in easily anywhere.
Oh, my goodness. What is Miss Brunner admitting? Is this a foreshadowing of things to come? A question to keep in mind since Miss Brunner makes her appearance in each novel within the tetralogy.
Psychedlia Prime 60s weapon employed by brother Frank in his role as prototypical Ian Fleming bad guy: LSD gas. Hang in, Jerry! You must steel yourself to overcome the mind-bending effects:
"His brain and body exploded in a torrent of mingled ecstasy and pain. Regret. Guilt. Relief. Waves of pale light flickered. He fell down a never-ending slope of obsidian rock surrounded by clouds of green, purple, yellow, black. . . . Another wave flowed up his spine. No-mind, no-body, no-where. Dying waves of light danced out of his eyes and away through the dark world. Everything was dying. Cells, sinews, nerves, synapses - all crumbling. Tears of light, fading, fading. Brilliant rockets streaking into the sky and exploding all together and sending their multicoloured globes of light - balls on an Xmas tree - x-mass - drifting slowly. Black mist swirled across a bleak, horizoness nightscape."
Hollow Earth Theory Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote of a prehistoric world 500 miles below the earth's surface, a secret world lit by a constant noonday inner sun. Jerry toys with Hollow Earth Theory along with Hindu cosmic cycles (Kali Yuga most prominent), relativity, physics, neuroscience, mathematics, Nietzsche's eternal return, the list goes on.
I urge you to order a copy of The Final Programme. The recently published Titan Books edition is the one to go with, particularly since there's an insightful Introduction written by none other than lead authority on Science Fiction, critic and author John Clute.
I'll conclude with one of John Clute's keen observations re Jerry Cornelius. "The presentation of self in everyday life in the inner city is a form of theatre, where identity is rôle and where entropy is high, for time is passing. Jerry Cornelius is the paradigmatic native of the inner city."
Photo taken around 1968, the time when British author Michael Moorcock wrote The Final Programme
“A moment later, the world's first all-purpose human being strode eastward, whistling. 'A tasty world,' it reflected cheerfully. 'A very tasty world.' 'You said it, Cornelius!” ― Michael Moorcock, The Final Programme
‘The smell,’ she said. ‘I suppose we are indirectly responsible for that.’
Jerry grinned at her somewhat admiringly. ‘Well, yes, I suppose you are.’
‘This was a gift-wrapped, throwaway age, Mr. Cornelius. Now the gift wrapping is off, it’s being thrown away.’
‘It’s certainly perishable.’ Jerry wrinkled his nose.
Jerry Cornelius is a Renaissance man of all that is hip and cool, baby. There isn’t a hipper cat in all the kingdom. He is so stylish, so ahead of his time and place that the trends he sets are outdated before anyone else can catch the vibe. He is gay, straight, bi, and everything in-between. If it is physically possible, he has done it. To try and define him by his sexuality is an impossibility because once you put a label on it, baby,...it gets stale.
Life isn’t just about looking good and feeling good. A person must stretch their mind, not just with drugs, but with science. Jerry gets high on science. He writes about it. He plucks the strings of the known universe and then chains together some chords that open up new vistas of understanding. Oh, he’s a musician, too. You can call him a rock star, but he is really something more cosmic. The minute you decide he is one thing, he has become something else.
Jerry assassinates people. He doesn’t just carry that needle gun as a menacing accessory. Jerry has a brother named Frank, brilliant and demented, who is trying to build a super computer to either take over the world or destroy the world. It probably depends on his mood at the apex moment. Think super villain. Jerry has a sister named Catherine, the love of his life. I mean to say looovvveee of his life. Is he immoral or just refusing to be defined by something as mundane as morality?
Once the rest of us put a label on it...Jerry has moved on.
He has a partner, an arch-villain type partner...friend or foe? We’ll call her Miss Brunner because we have to call her something. She is constantly hiring new assistants because they mysteriously disappear. She wants to create a superhuman by merging a male and a female, and who is better suited for androgyny than Jerry Cornelius? Keep your needle gun close, Jerry. Those aren’t rubber teeth glinting in her mouth.
It is frustrating to see the future so clearly while everyone else is sinking in quicksand. ”Jerry sighed and thought that the true aristocracy who would rule the seventies were out in force: the queers and the lesbians and the bisexuals, already half-aware of their great destiny which would be realised when the central ambivalence of sex would be totally recognized and terms male and female would become all but meaningless.”
By the end of the book, we are venturing into a post-apocalyptic age. London is sinking. Jerry has evolved into something quite different. The 1960s are over, and a new party needs to begin. By the time we arrive at the festivities...Jerry will already be through with the 1970s and be looking longingly at the next decade. If we don’t evolve quicker, Jerry is going to lose patience with us.
What a mind bending blast it is trying to keep Jerry’s warp signature on the radar.
Before you decide to start reading this book, you’ve got to relax, man. If you don’t relax, you’re going to get all twitchy and self-conscious. You’re going to start trying to cram this book into that box in your brain that you call the known universe. It ain’t going to fit, no matter how you fold it or crush it. Disengage the gears, and let your mind glide for a while. Strip away all of your inhibitions, and let your tongue taste the bitter fruit of the unknown.
If you are too square, let Jerry round off your edges.
If you are saying to yourself right now, I’m not going to read some old book from the 1960s, you need to understand that you can’t put a date on this book, man. It’s time hasn’t come yet.
I’m a little giddy that there are three more books in the series. Where will we go from here?
Needless to say, Michael Moorcock struggled to find a publisher for this book. He wrote it in 1965 and finally found a publisher for it in 1968. That edition was censored by the American publisher; the ghosts of the Puritans still haunt us today. The book was later published in Britain in 1969.
Take a trip, man, blast back, blast forward. It doesn't matter. Time is all relative.
For a 1960’s science fiction novel laced with sex, drugs and rock & roll, I didn’t enjoy this book nearly as much as I thought I would. The Final Programme was my introduction to Michael Moorcock and I will probably not be reading the other three books in this quartet. I say ‘probably’ rather than ‘definitely’ because the book wasn’t actually bad. But it was a chore to read to the end.
The fact that the story was not compelling had little to do with my boredom. I don’t need a plot or well-developed characters to be happy. Create the right atmosphere and I’m good. And the atmosphere of London in the Swinging Sixties should have kept me plenty amused. But it didn’t. The outrageous sci-fi elements and Eastern philosophy also should have held my interest. But they didn’t. Looking back on the reading experience as a whole, I can say the book was not without its fun, but there were no actual moments when I was having any.
There’s one scene that stands out to me as a good example of my ambivalence about this book. It is a psychedelic scene where Jerry Cornelius is tripping on a hallucinogen-laced needle shot at him by his brother during a raid on his eccentric family’s booby-trapped mansion. Sounds like fun already, right? Well, it sounds like more fun than it is.
“He was riding a black ferris wheel of emotions. His brain and body exploded in a torrent of mingled ecstasy and pain. Regret. Guilt. Relief. Waves of pale light flickered. He fell down a never-ending slope of obsidian rock surrounded by clouds of green, purple, yellow, black. The rock vanished, but he continued to fall. World of phosphorescence drifting like golden spheres into the black night. Green, blue, red explosions. Flickering world of phosphorescent tears falling into timeless, spaceless wastes. World of Guilt. Guilt—guilt—guilt…Another wave flowed up his spine. No-mind, no-body, no-where. Dying waves of light danced out of his eyes and away through the dark world. Everything was dying. Cells, sinews, nerves, synapses—all crumbling. Tears of light, fading, fading. Brilliant rockets streaking into the sky and exploding all together and sending their multicoloured globes of light—balls on an Xmas tree—x-mass—drifting slowly. Black mist swirled across a bleak, horizonless nightscape” (98).
I love psychedelic imagery, but this passage strikes me as uninspired, pedestrian. It’s not bad. It’s just that it has potential to be good and it doesn’t live up to that potential.
Then there’s the general atmosphere of Swinging London ~ the neon signs and pinball machines, Beatles music and mod fashion. This also should have been much better than it is.
“It was a world ruled by the gun, the guitar, and the needle...” (111).
Perhaps substitute a lava lamp for the gun and a bong for the needle, but no, it’s not the trappings of the scene; it’s the style that loses me. I’m okay with an evil James Bond. Apparently I’m even okay with incest and assassination. But I’m not okay with writing that falls flat. Moorcock never quite creates the mood that would breathe life into his novel.
Still, there are things I liked about the book. It was campy and I like that ~ in small doses. I also understand from John Clute’s introduction that the Jerry Cornelius stories are a sort of template for New Wave sci-fi and it was good to get a feel for the subgenre. I can see how this book could easily become a cult classic, but it’s not a cult I’m likely to join.
I think this book has some hilarious dialogue. In fact, the bossy Miss Brunner is great! But this was a very tedious read. It's like one long, rambling joke. Parts of it are funny, but most of it is pointless. There's no depth to any of the characters. There's no plot. I think Moorcock was trying to shock people with things like incest and fratricide , but since I’m not easily shocked, I almost fell asleep.
I love the movie though. I've read Moorcock hated it...figures.
In the apocalyptic end-point of swinging-60s London, the universe parties and pleasure-seeks itself into oblivion as an eternally bored hipster and amoral vampiric scientist set in motion the renewal and continuance of human existence. With its offhandedly-cursory-yet-pretentious philosophizing, horrendously uneven wobbling between bizarre action set piece and graspings at significance, weird jokiness hiding its overearnestness, and and rather unlikeable super-cool protagonist, this one earns a deserved fair share of detractors. In many ways, it's dreadful. And yet there's something so weird, and so desperate to touch the real that lies far outside any shred of conventional character, progression, or resolution, that it's also kind of remarkable. It's almost a kind of psychedelic outsider religion with no care for reader identification, or really even human life in the overarching and inescapable cosmic cycle of destruction and renewal. Its casual incompetence belies a brutal and fine-honed urgency, of a kind. Easy to write off as terrible, but more ambiguous than that, really.
This also became an equally uneven, but perhaps more concisely entertaining movie, which preserves many of its more expectation-confusing qualities.
I was at first very hesitant to pick up a ‘Cornelius’ novel because of all of the bad things I’ve herd about ‘Cornelius’ in general, about how disjointed and confusing he could be. This novel though was amazing. I am very thankful that I have read so much Moorcock lately because it made things so much easier to follow. Everything got so much easier after I noticed it was the last three Elric books condensed and transposed. Phase 1 Part 2 contains a scene for scene transposition of "the Dreaming City" part 2; one could argue for a transposition of the first parts as well. The next place the Déjà vu is obvious is in phase 2 parts 8 and 9 which is taken quite a bit from “While the Gods Laugh” You could easily argue the whole of phase 3 being greatly condensed version of The Bane of the Black Sword with the Hero moving away, getting married and trying to stay out of the apocalypse. For the overall connections to The multiverse Jerry’s world is being consumed by chaos, and Jerry, as chaos’ champion has absolutely no checks, in the form of an alternate self (Moonglum, Jhary, or another companion) so his attack on law is never opposed, and his sensitive nature is allowed to subside. Ms. Brunner represents the very weakened forces of chaos on this world, but after her and Jerry merge we now have something that quite resembles Arioch…If you decide of read Cornelius I recommend getting a full grounding in Moorcock first, without it the mix of tongue in cheek, self depreciation, and interconnection could be a torturous maze of nonsense and confusion.
Shit like this can't be written today. Moorcock turns 007 and the UK espionage genre into a dirty and swank piece of new-wave dime-store literature, complete with hermaphroditic gods, acid bombs over London, time-holes destroying Europe, and the random apocalyptic orgy. I really had fun with this novel.
Today, we're concerned with The Final Programme and Moorcock's status as one of speculative fiction's foremost prophets of catastrophe. Like his New Worlds compadre J G Ballard, his work confronts us with apocalypse after apocalypse.
Unlike the Sage of Shepperton however, Moorcock gives the impression of revelling in The End; if the world is making its merry way over the final cliff, why not be the Pied Piper?
And pied piper, holy fool, party-hardy Prospero - these are all accurate-yet-partial descriptions of the anti-hero of The Final Programme, Jerry Cornelius. His is an alternate Cold War world in which existing certainties have collapsed and the moral order has been superseded, where technology seems only able to precipitate disaster and the arts to celebrate the end.
And Jerry is a man whose response to civil collapse is to hold a season-long swinging sixties party as a new form of social organisation.
If this makes him sound like some kind of Nietzschean Austin Powers, it's not altogether far from the truth. This dandy, sexually flexible assassin and playboy wanders through spy thriller scenes - glamorous international locations, underworld plots, secret lairs and the like - obsessed with love and revenge.
His nemesis (and antithesis) is Ms Brunner a vampiric computer programmer and authority figure who wants to calculate the answer to everything in the titular program. Shades of Deep Thought, perhaps...
Moorcock has a serious, bleak point to make about the impossibility of sustaining life in a society seemingly in love with death, but The Final Progamme is also a great deal of fun, as sixties London frantically frugs its way towards the Eschaton.
And while the book is inevitably rooted in its own mid-sixties cultural moment, its exhilarating nihilism is still both a challenge and an inspiration to anyone seeking to make anything anew amid the febrile wreckage of the old.
Lo que nos cuenta. Tras una breve introducción en Angkor Hilton, la reunión de un grupo en la Inglaterra de los años sesenta, con Jerry Cornelius a la cabeza, es la revisión final del plan para atacar la espectacular (e inquietante) mansión familiar Cornelius en busca de cierto artículo. Pero Jerry quiere visitar la casa en el acantilado antes, en solitario, y esquivando a los guardias de su hermano Frank poder ver con sus propios ojos a su amada Catherine, de su propia familia. Algunos fragmentos de la novela fueron publicados previamente en una revista de género entre 1965 y 1966. Primer libro de la serie de Jerry Cornelius.
¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:
Originally published on my blog here in September 1999.
The Final Programme must have seemed, in the mid sixties, to be the epitome of British New Wave chic. Yet, unlike so much of the literature of the period, it and its sequels have not dated. Like the TV series The Avengers, it contains a distinct vein of self parody, paving the way for Moorcock's attacks on the book in the later Jerry Cornelius novels.
The best cult sixties TV series - The Saint and The Prisoner are other examples - are in fact what come to mind most readily when reading The Final Programme. That is perhaps fitting, since one of Moorcock's aims in the book seems to be to explore the boundaries between high art and popular culture. He picks up ideas and atmosphere from sources like TV and meshes them into structures from the important literature of the century (though this becomes more obvious in the later books in the series).
The background to The Final Programme is the bitter enmity between debonair dilettante man of action Jerry Cornelius and his brother Frank, drug crazed despoiler of their inheritance, an immense French château filled with booby traps by their father. Here drug culture references come into the story, as he was an expert in hallucination, working with drugs and "hallucinomats", hypnotic machines. (Remember how important both these ideas were in The Avengers.)
Frank has barred Jerry from the château, and imprisoned their sister Catherine, for whom Jerry has an incestuous passion. Joining with the mercenary Una Persson, who aims to get her hands on their father's secrets and use them to take over the world, Jerry attacks the castle.
Out of print for over a decade, the 2016 reissues of Michael Moorcock’s THE CORNELIUS QUARTET are already the best thing that will happen this year. This is the science fiction contribution to 60s Swinging London. If you’re an Alan Moore or Grant Morrison fan then this is the ground zero you’ve been looking for. So pour yourself a drink, pop a blue pill, and put on a Hawkwind record cause Jerry Cornelius is here to party! (2016) ------ Turns out the above review was correct, 2016 only got worse after the release of this book. Re-reading it during the winter of 2019 brings out all the scary similarities to the American absurdist era of 2016 - 2020. Moorcock wasn't just predicting the collapse of Swinging London and the inevitable appearance of a Margaret Thatcher type, he also honed in on the collapse of "The American Century" and the rise of Trump. (2019)
Imagine if you can, that you have lived before. But not just once or twice, but an infinite number of times. You have lived an eternal number of lifetimes. Each life is different, but a lot of the same conflicts and obstacles occur in each lifetime. But these conflicts are not the same, they are variations on a theme, like movements of a symphony - except it's nothing like a symphony. You might be beginning to grasp the insanely chaotic mess of interwoven tangles that is the tapestry of life that belongs to Jerry Cornelius. Except he's not alway Jerry Cornelius is he? The Eternal Champion is really a vast chronicle that really starts no where, ends in the middle and continues in new facets that are (and are not) variations of the original theme. In Jerry Cornelius the reader will find reflections of Elric, Hawkmoon and Corum. And yet Jerry Cornelius is nothing like any if these aspects of the Eternal Champion. Jerry Cornelius is often cited as the first cyberpunk hero, but he's really just a variation of the post-modern anti-hero savior archetype that the author has created and recreated again and again. Filled with fast-paced dialogue and an endlessly shifting sense of priorities, this book is funny, sexy, loud, irreverent and rebellious, all while being endlessly entertaining. Written in the mid to late 1960s this book is enormously revealing about the culture in which it was developed. The setting is now a seemingly alien environment that could be hundreds of years in the future instead of the "now" of the time when the book was written. In any case the world of Jerry Cornelius is not our world, this isn't our reality. But then can anyone expect that it would be with the protagonist being the Eternal Champion.
A Jerry Cornelius novel! The first in the series. Perhaps even a British comic strip as well as a film. No, I never heard of the series, or of Jerry Cornelius, till very recently. Written by the noted science fiction author Michael Moorcock, this novel reminds me very much of the works by Terry Southern. They both share an anti-everything approach to life, as well as being very much part of the 1960s culture. In fact, "The Final Programme" could have 'only' have been written in the 60s. This 1965 novel is very much a snapshot of its time and has a strong sense of placement, which is London.
Cornelius is an assassin, that resembles a secret agent, and if he lived in a real life or of course in a fantasy world, he would have known about Barbarella. He lives in Notting Hill London, and has various transportation machines - boats, cars, etc. In this novel, he battles his brother Frank, and eventually, and of course, things happen. The main villain is a certain Miss Brunner, and .... Well, you have to read the novel.
The book is very dated. Yet that is part of the charm of reading it in 2016. Here, you get a perspective of Swinging London circa 1965, as well as perhaps an early image of a David Bowie - a character that perhaps Moorcock had a hand in. For those who love Emma Peel, John Steed, The Prisoner, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. - this is the novel for you.
With a name like Moorcock, it would be a shame to find a tame plot between the covers. Thankfully, this famous SciFi author delivers the goods, in a mind and gender-bending vision of the near future (or, more precisely, altered present) 196- London (and well beyond) and the crumbling inhabitants therein. We follow the gallivanting protagonist as he reels confidently from one tight spot to the next, getting deeper and deeper over his head until we the reader can feel the pace, plans and speed as a palpable sensation. We have Nazis. We have lost tech. We have a sex and drug culture rivaled only by (though with different outcomes than) Idiocracy. It goes places in one page that could take other books chapters to ham fistedly explore. While a short book, the rapid progression of ideas, unrelenting inventiveness and seemingly effortless, vibrant descriptions makes for another engrossing, hard to put down read. I defy anyone to figure out where the journey will remotely end, even 3/4 of the way through!
4.5 stars. An extremely interesting, unique psychedelic 1960’s sci fi trip. This is really way ahead of it's time. It's hard to describe and it’s very odd, but in a good way. As always I think Moorcock is terrific.
Eccoci finalmente ad uno dei capitoli delle vicende di Jerry Cornelius, alter ego di Moorcock; che si apre in una Cambogia ancora pre-Khmer Rossi, dove il protagonista visita Angkor e si intrattiene a lungo con un bramino indù parlando dei cicli temporali lunghi milioni di anni presenti nella mitologia dei Veda.. Jerry Cornelius è un dandy, forse un ex asceta decaduto o addirittura un gesuita spretato (si fa riferirmento a un certo “fratello Luigi”), autore di ponderosi tomi sullo sviluppo del cosmo; evoluzione diretta del Faustaff protagonista dei “Riti dell’infinito”, scritto tre anni prima. Siamo però a un tornante storico: la beata spensieratezza dei libertari anni ’60 comincia a mostrare il suo lato oscuro, nello scatenamento di pulsioni distruttive, come “Arancia meccanica” di Burgess e Kubrick mostrerà magnificamente. E quindi anche Cornelius vive i suoi piaceri con intensità violenta, drogandosi e uccidendo, ben lontano dall’epicureismo di Faustaff. Nella prima parte, insieme ad alcuni complici e con l’aiuto di mercenari belgi (allora famigerati per le loro guerre coloniali) e sudafricani, Cornelius scatena una guerra fratricida contro il fratello, che vive asserragliato in un castello costruito da loro padre in stile “espressionismo tedesco” sulla costa bretone; il primo obiettivo è appropriarsi di certi microfilm, che sarebbero stati suoi di diritto, non fosse stato diseredato per la relazione incestuosa con la sorella.. il secondo obiettivo è proprio “recuperare” lei, che il fratello custodisce “limitandosi” a sperimentare droghe su di lei. La missione fallisce, ma uno dei superstiti del commando gli salva la vita: è miss Brunner, programmatrice informatica con l’ambizione di scrivere il “Programma finale” che salvi l’umanità dal crollo nell’entropia. L’edonismo compulsivo di Jerry è infatti anche una risposta alle inquietudini sul futuro dell’umanità, minacciata dalla sovrappopolazione ma più ancora dal caos generalizzato; la posizione di Jerry al riguardo è ambigua: sembra un agente del caos, che mira al superamento delle differenze dei sessi verso una piena bisessualità, come nella scena in discoteca (pag.66): “ecco la gente che avrebbe dovuto governare nel ’70, era proprio un disastro (sic): invertiti, lesbiche e ambivalenti, ormai consapevoli del loro destino, che si sarebbe realizzato quando l’ambivalenza del sesso sarebbe stata riconosciuta completamente, e le parole maschile e femminile avrebbero perso ogni significato. Jerry camminava fra le più disparate macchinette a gettoni, molte delle quali sarebbero diventate essenziali per l’umanità nel 2000. Luce, colori, musica, flipper, distributori di pillole, fucili, non erano nient’altro che meri sostitutivi del sesso. Gli studiosi di statistica di tutta Europa consideravano ormai come scontato il fatto che, se la natalità avesse progredito allo stesso ritmo degli anni ’60, avrebbe prodotto, entro il 4000, un pianeta formato, cuore e crosta, di esseri umani. (..) Soltanto Francia, Svizzera e Svezia, temporali e temporanei bastioni, si attaccavano al passato e stavano in piedi, ma avrebbero ben presto ceduto all’imminente crisi pre-entropica. Non si trattava del cambiamento di un modo di fare, ma di un modo di pensare. Jerry non si era ancora reso conto se abitasse in un mondo “vero” o “falso”, e questo pensiero continuava a tormentarlo.” Nella seconda parte, la più confusa, e soprattutto nella terza, si chiarisce quale sia il “Programma finale”, di cui non rivelo i dettagli. Ci arriveremo attraverso azioni di spionaggio, la conquista del Laplab (un laboratorio segreto in Lapponia), l’abbandono di Londra mentre nel palazzo di Cornelius si celebra un party che durerà settimane e mesi! “Il flusso degli invitati continuava ininterrotto e se, sulle prime, sembravano un poco sospettosi, ben presto si adattavano all’ambiente, sentendosi a loro agio. C’erano lesbiche turche e iraniane, con enormi occhi da ninfa che assomigliavano a quelli di un triste gatto castrato, sarti francesi, musicisti tedeschi, martiri ebrei, un mangiatore di fuoco del Suffolk, un quartetto di barbieri provenienti dall’ultima base americana in Gran Bretagna: il Columbia Club, in Lancaster Gate, due donne grassocce e manierate, Hans Smith, da Hampstead, l’ultimo intellettuale di sinistra, la Mente dei Microfilm, Shades; quattordici rivenditori di pezzi antichi di Portobello Road, con il capo chianato sotto il peso della consapevolezza delle proprie frodi, un brunitore di metalli francese, disoccupato e trascinato lì da uno degli antiquari, un complesso pop chiamato “Deep Fix”, un altro chiamato “Le Coques Sucrés” (sic), un negro altissimo, un veterinario gobbo che si chiamava Marcus, la ragazza svedese, accompagnata da un ragazzo molto interessante..” ..e così via per una pagina, l’unica di ampio respiro: in generale la scrittura è pop, piena di riferimenti coltissimi ma anche frivoli: all’abito di Corrèges di Jerry, ai whisky Teacher’s e Hall’s che beve generosamente guidando la sua Duesenberg, alla musica dei Beatles ma anche degli Who e Manfred Mann che JC ascolta, con brani di canzoni incorporate (Stephen King scriverà così anni dopo.. oggi sembra incredibile ma allora anche i Beatles erano considerati vagamente peccaminosi). Moorcock non ha ancora l’eleganza e densità di scrittura che raggiungerà vent’anni dopo con, per esempio, “La fortezza della perla” o “La figlia della ladra di sogni”: siamo all’apice della New Wave e, come nei “Riti”, la sua scrittura è famelica, avida di accumulare dettagli dell’incredibile vita di JC, vogliosa di scioccare e sorprendere. Nel mondo anglosassone l’intera serie ha avuto grande successo (in Italia è stato tradotto solo questo primo volume), e ne è stato tratto un film e un fumetto. Moorcock fa una vera e propria dichiarazione di valori: la morale tradizionale è finita, anzi qualunque morale; attraverso bisessualità, incesti e orge (timidamente accennate peraltro.. a meno che l’edizione originale fosse più esplicita) arrivare a costruire il nuovo Uomo, al di là del bene e del male. Insomma, con questo libro seminale l’autore sta definendo uno dei pilastri della sua futura poetica, il Caos: della Legge ancora non c’è traccia, ma arriverà. Per quanto la trama sia abbastanza contorta, vale la pena riportare da Goodreads (dove i giudizi sono molto divergenti) un’interessante osservazione di Lucas, un altro lettore: “Tutto è divenuto molto più facile dopo che mi sono accorto che erano i tre ultimi libri di Elric condensati e trasposti. Fase 1 Parte 2 contiene una trasposizione scena per scena della parte 2 di "The Dreaming City"; si potrebbe ipotizzare anche una trasposizione delle prime parti. Un altro punto dove il “Déjà vu” è evidente è nella Fase 2 parti 8 e 9, che prendono parecchio da “While the Gods Laugh”. Si potrebbe facilmente ipotizzare che l’intera fase 3 sia una versione molto condensata della “Maledizione della spada nera”, con l’eroe che se ne va, si sposa e cerca di rimanere fuori dall’apocalisse.” Come si è detto, non è una scrittura che renda facile seguire il filo dei ragionamenti dei personaggi, né particolarmente piacevole a lungo andare; in questo è forse responsabile anche la traduzione, su cui va fatto un discorso a parte. C’è un incredibile campionario di svarioni: Cornelius è ghiotto di “canditi” (candies, dolci in genere?) come i “Mars bars”; un uomo è “rude” con la moglie (sarà nel senso di maleducato?); un complice è considerato “capace di doppia croce” (“double cross”, doppio gioco?); ma il meglio è il malefico fratello che fugge avendo “qualcosa infilato su per la manica” (“something up his sleeve”, cioè con qualche sotterfugio in mente..), forse nascondere “un filo di archivi” (files?).. Che dire degli “Indiani dell'Ovest” che affollano Londra? non saranno Apaches o Navajo, ma caraibici (delle Indie Occidentali). Posso accettare che di un personaggio che porta gli occhiali da sole anche di notte non venga tradotto il soprannome “Shades” (“occhiali da sole", appunto), ma l’imperiosa miss Brunner che “al risveglio aveva un viso divertente”: sarà “funny”, strano? E la seconda e terza parte si svolgono in buona parte dentro delle “cave”, che essndo naturali saranno piuttosto caverne (“caves”). È bello comunque pensare che questi passaggi sotterranei prefigurino il meraviglioso mondo sotterraneo che troveremo trent’anni dopo nella “Figlia della ladra di sogni”. La pignoleria è un po’ meschina, ma quando le tòpiche raggiungono questa frequenza (soprattutto in alcuni capitoli, forse perché la traduzione è stata fatta a quattro mani) ci si chiede quanto siano corrette anche le frasi senza errori evidenti. Consiglio quindi di leggere la nuova edizione Fanucci anzichè la vecchia Galassia. In questa edizione sospetto anche il taglio di alcune decine di pagine.
After more than 20 Moorcock book this is the first book I really did not like. I Always liked Moorcock's writing style, weird situations and fantastical worlds. I always get right into the story and feel for (and with) the characters. But not this time. I couldn't get into the story, it never started making any sense and it just didn't interest me. Besides that it's advertised as SF, but it wasn't SF enough for me.
Luckely there are enough Moorcock books left for me to read. But i'll definitely skip the Jerry Cornelius series.
I starting this hoping to get something along the lines of William Gibson. Instead, I got Austin Powers without the humor. A series of vaguely related vignettes that are vaguely science fiction-ish. Very, very dated.
The first half was fun: kind of like that cartoon “Archer” but with a 1970s Mick Jagger playing the lead... which shows how either ahead of its time this 60s book was or else what an influence it had. The second half was a bit stranger with those lovable hollow earth nazis I had thought were a Church of the Subgenius invention... yeash, we find ourselves in a time when I feel compelled to add that only fictional nazis can be lovable...
The gender bending and other queer elements were also very cool, not belabored, and yet somehow very plausibly moving to the center of the story as the vampirism comes into focus.
So, like, 10 out of 10 for coolness but not really as exciting for me as his swords and sorcery stuff.
The first in Michael Moorcocks Jerry Cornelius quartet, The Final Programme is quite an experience. Moorcock blends genres effortlessly, at times this reads like something from the pages of Commando comic, at other times it feels very James Bond like (although a very psycedelic Bond). Its all very unusual, Moorcock is a mordant satirist, who deals with the moral dilemmas of 1960s Britain in a surreal way, theology clashes with metaphysics, its all terribly confusing yet profoundly powerful at the same time.
Almost in the vein of James Bond. Extremely quirky with some elements of science fiction blended into the mix. A super spy perhaps, a gratuitous female love/lust interest. Incest? AI? Sexual depravity? Secret headquarters with booby traps? Family strife? Borderline too strange to be phenomenal, but still an intriguing read.
conceptually, jerry cornelius’ hip manic anarchist metaphysical bisexual adventures are top tier. however, it suffers from the same problem i had with the illuminatus trilogy, where the “of its time” aspect ends up taking away from my enjoyment of the story. the philosophical elements and worldbuilding were all hazy and slightly confusing but i understand what moorcock was trying to get at. i think. actually i don’t get it at all but i had a good time.
My wife had never seen Casablanca. This struck me as an injustice and so I dutifully sat her down, put int he dvd and teared up when they sang Le Marseilles to drown out the Nazis singing German drinking songs. before we even got to that iconic scene however, my wife in near exasperation exclaimed that she flt like she had seen this movie before, because so much of the dialogue, staging and characters had been referenced, quoted, and parodied in so many other movies and TV shows since 1941.
Reading The Final Programme should have been like that. And judging by the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, for some people it is.
But it's a testament to Michael Moorcock's skill as a writer that this book, written in 1965, first published in 1968 doesn't feel dated. It has all the hallmarks of the early counterculture that it was a harbinger to, the blithe attitude towards sex and drug use, open homosexuality and bisexuality, the fierce social commentary and everything else that should, by all rights, make this a screaming artifact of a bygone era. Instead, it's a rich, fun wild ride, full of brain melting ideas, speeches about eternal recurrence and identity, tossed off like casual banter about the weather, and a sly nod and wink to the reader that yeah, this is all a lark, but a serious lark.
(It's also possible that I have a soft spot for weirdo counterculture fiction form the 60s, as I'm also a big fan of Illuminatus! and Mumbo Jumbo).
What struck as someone who hasn't read the Cornelius Quartet before (and not much Moorcock at all), is how influential this series really is. Jerry Cornelius is a direct forefather to Casanova Quinn, bent gender and all. I'm honestly surprised his initials aren't JC, frankly.
I'm not going to talk about the plot, because it's fabulous pop art kitsch of the highest order. I want there to be a long lost movie made of it, starring John Philip Law, in full on Danger: Diabolik mode. And telling it in spare synopsis form would make it sound even more ridiculous than summaries usually do.
There's plenty to be had in the Final Programme, for Moorcock enthusiasts, the references to other works about the Eternal Champion's exploits. But even if you don't know about the cosmic battle that [lays out, a hundred time sin different guises and permutations over the course of dozens of the author's novels, there is still a lot of fun to be had. And really, that's the adjective that best sums up this book: Michael Moorcock clearly had a blast writing it and now, it's back for you and I to have fun reading it again, for the first time.
Kudos to Titan Books for bringing out these new editions of fantasy and sci-fi classics by a genuine master of the craft. ( I hope they do The Dancer at the End of Time series next, as that one is a personal favorite).
One of my all time favourite reads. Essentially a rewite of an early Elric tale reconvigured as a Pop-Art nightmare explosion. Hugely influential at the time, at least in "underground" circles, it still retains a mythical power.
The plot concerns the creation of the new messiah - a pressing question in the sixties, if you consider the rise of alternative political and religious organisations throughout that epoch. While fairly simplistic and straight forward it is carried off with such energy and humour that makes it a craking read.
The characters are not fully developed in the way that we no have come to expect from novels - it doesn't deal with questions of individual psychology - rather they are ciphers, or archetypes. The pace and the themes give the whole novel a mythic quality with out the need to descend into the simply epic and over blown.
The Final Programme was the first novel in the Cornelius Quartet and it is the best place to start having a straight forward narrative structure that gets successively broken don over the course of the series.
I won this from Goodreads Giveaways because I'm awesome!
What a fun strange little book. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I'm not sure I could synopsize what happened, but it was a fun post-apocalyptic (I think) ride. The main character, Jerry Cornelius isn't a very good dude, but for some reason you want to like him. There are some big questions that go unanswered and a few big jumps in time with the missing time left a mystery, but I really didn't mind about those things, so I'm sure it was purposefully designed that way. And the end is just wacky craziness. I'll be checking out the next in the series.
Michael Moorcock is among my favorite Appendix N authors; I very much love his fantasy works, and so I was looking forward to this foray into science fiction (actually, it's more like a 1960s forerunner of cyberpunk). In some ways, it is an extremely progressive novel, for the world it imagines is seemingly pansexual, with old sexual hangups completely gone. Jerry Cornelius is a very cyberpunk vision of the eternal champion - scientist, rock star, and assassin. As European society crumbles (facing social dissolution and economic collapse), someone is working on the computer formula to create a truly universal human being, a messiah to herald a new age . . .