Tag Archive: The Warlord of the Air

Wind Whales of Ishmael cover

Written in 1971 by notable sci-fi author Philip José Farmer, The Wind Whales of Ishmael is intended as a sequel to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  As to genre, it fits into modern steampunk, with its exploration of Earth’s future without reference to the scientific realities of the latter 20th century, and its sailing ships in the sky.  Wind Whales continues the story of Ishmael, the only survivor of Ahab’s failed whale hunt in Moby Dick, a story many literature students have struggled to get through because of its dauntingly long passages of a solitary life at sea.  Ishmael is rescued but by clinging to Quequeg’s canoe coffin he is plunged through some type of vortex, much like the Bermuda Triangle, into Earth’s distant future.  This future world is unrecognizable, and has a few similarities to the distant planet from Avatar.  Along with other of Farmer’s works, Wind Whales is being re-issued by Titan Books in a new library aimed at steampunk readers.  The new printing of The Wind Whales of Ishmael hits bookstores tomorrow, March 12, 2013, with a foreward by editor Michael Croteau and an afterward by Farmer’s nephew, author Danny Adams.

The oddity in Wind Whales is that it has very little in relation to theme, writing style, and characterization to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  So it could have been a standalone story, or a sequel to any number of classic works.  There is of course a future world of whaling and fighting “air sharks” which ties Ishmael to his past life where he threw away all else to enter a life at sea.  Yet the future world of far distant Earth is so different that Wind Whales may have more in relation to Frank Herbert’s Dune series with its giant worms.

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Warlord of the Air

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s been 41 years since Michael Moorcock first published The Warlord of the Air, the first novel in his Nomad of the Time Streams series following Edwardian British Army Captain Oswald Bastable as he becomes unstuck in different timelines in the 20th century.  It has all the elements of steampunk, despite being written more than 15 years before the term came into common meaning, including a focus on airships being the preferred form of transportation in the novel’s alternate 1973, as well as technologies and events that did or did not occur in our own timeline.

Moorcock serves to pull the reader into the story through the device of finding writings from his own grandfather, also named Michael Moorcock, in which his grandfather personally encountered Captain Bastable on a small island in the Indian Ocean in 1903.  Bastable has been unceremoniously ousted from a steam-powered, seafaring vessel and appears disoriented to the narrator so he takes him into his house and learns of the story recounted to the reader as the bulk of the novel.

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