Book Review: The Final Programme by Michael Moorcock

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Michael Moorcock’s 1968 novel The Final Programme introduced Jerry Cornelius, an anarchist who appears in multiple personas.  Jerry’s a Nobel Prize physicist, rock star, and ruthless assassin. Moorcock taps into the darkness laying below the surface of the counterculture, creating a slightly askew world.  Treachery, violence , sex, drug use, and chaos occur frequently. Written in fluent prose, The Final Programme tells a sharp tale that builds towards a whacked out ending.

The structure of The Final Programme is episodic, the first in a quartet of books.  The main story involves a race to build a supercomputer.

Jerry comes from a dysfunctional family.  His father was a mad scientist with Nazi connections, while his brother Frank is a psychopath.  Both brothers compete for the love of their sister Catherine.  Jerry’s beautiful sidekick Miss Jenny Brunner drives the plot, possibly using him as a pawn in a complex conspiracy.

Moorcock’s world is a looking glass version of the actual 1960s.  Most of Europe appears to be at war and the state of the world feels grim, yet the technology is futuristic, especially cars and weapons.  Jerry’s massive arsenal includes vibraguns that stuns his victims into instant death.  Rock music dominates the culture, The Beatles are frequently referenced.

The Final Programme is a wild trip through 1960s mythology with hallucinatory action scenes punctuated with acidic social commentary.  Jerry Cornelius would go on to become one of the archetypal cult characters for the late 20th Century and beyond.

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