Book Review: A Cure For Cancer by Michael Moorcock (1971)

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A Cure For Cancer, Michael Moorcock’s second entry in the Jerry Cornelius quartet, goes much deeper into surrealism than the predecessor novel The Final Programme.  A psychedelic dystopia, the novel mirrors the dark turn of rock music in the late 1960s.

Jerry Cornelius returns in what might be 1970.  America is at war with Europe and wants to wipe out the continent with napalm.  Jerry’s now black with albino white hair, indifferent to the chaos around him, meeting reality with incoherence and wit (with deadly vibragun at his side).  Bishop Beesley, a morbidly obese psychotic clergyman, pursues Jerry for unspecified reasons, possibly involving a time disruption device.

Unlike the sustained narrative of The Final Programme, A Cure For Cancer is a collection of loosely connected vignettes. Reading experience take preference over plot and that’s a good thing here. The story begins in a war torn London with Jerry on the run in the midst of violent insanity. Some of the story takes place in America, a police state with concentration camps sprouting up everywhere in one of the most haunting sequences.

In a rare moment of true sentiment Jerry reflects: Tears came to his eyes and he leaned heavily against the wall . . . America, the shattered dream, the broken promise (136).

Like Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, the novel condemns the militaristic mindset of the late 20th century.  Moorcock inserted real advertisements into the text, mostly for guns and other weapons, illustrating the moral schizophrenia of Western Culture.

A Cure For Cancer is a hybrid of James Joyce and Pulp Comics suffused with acid laced irreverence.  So crank up Disraeli Gears and then Are You Experienced? and jump into the fire of the Cornelius quartet.

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