|I finished reading THE LAND LEVIATHAN by British science-fiction author Michael Moorcock the other day. It's the second book in his Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy. I recently posted about the first book in this series, THE WARLORD OF THE AIR. I have a copy of the third and final book, THE STEEL TSAR, on my shelf waiting to be read.|
LAND continues the story of one Oswald Bastable, a British soldier from the turn of the 20th century who has somehow become adrift in time. This drifting causes him to visit various alternate timelines in which history happened differently than it did in ours.
In LAND, Bastable finds himself in a world in which, due to some advances in technology in the late 19th century, World War I occurred several years earlier than in our timeline and with drastically different results. The major European powers as well as the United Stares, have been devastated by the war with Great Britain a no-man's land due to the use of plague weapons in the war. The three remaining world powers include the Australasian-Japanese Federation, Bantustan (formerly South Africa, now a peaceful, neutral nation ruled by President Mahatma Ghandi) and the Ashanti Empire, an alliance of African nations ruled by Cicero Hood.
As in the previous novel, Moorcock uses this strange new world to explore ideas about geo-politics, systems of government, race relations, philosophies and more. Bastable wanders this timeline for a while before settling in Bantustan in the service of President Ghandi. But it's not long until he's asked to be a representative to the Ashanti Empire, where he learns more about the warlord Cicero Hood who has built the most technologically advanced army in the world, a military force comprised of ships that fly in the air, upon the water and below the waves, along with immense tank-like ironclad vehicles. Hood plans to invade the United States and liberate the black men and women who have been forced into a new iteration of slavery.
There's a tremendous air/sea battle in the North Atlantic, an attack on New York City and a climactic showdown in Washington D.C. in which the monstrous Land Leviathan is used to conquer the white slavers. The book ends with Bastable's where-abouts unknown but that question is sure to be answered in the third and final novel.
THE LAND LEVIATHAN is a relatively short novel and it reads very quickly. I wish Moorcock had lavished a few more pages on details on some of the battle sequences (they seem to be over much too quickly). Also, the first fifty pages are all prologue in which Moorcock's grandfather goes searching for Bastable in China only to find the mysterious Una Persson (another time traveler who also appeared in THE WARLORD OF THE AIR) and the manuscript of Bastable's adventures. Still, I enjoyed reading THE LAND LEVIATHAN and will get around to STEEL TSAR after I read something else for a change of pace.