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The Thunder Child Reviews: The White Wolf's Son: The Albino Underground
Review by Ryan Brennan

Michael Moorcock's The White Wolf's Son: The Albino Underground is another book set in the author's Multiverse previously presented in The Dreamthief's Daughter and The Skrayling Tree. Count Ulric von Bek and the Dreamthief's Daughter, Oona, unite once again, traveling the Moonbeam Roads in an adventure to save the Multiverse from the evil machinations of Klosterheim and Von Minct as they attempt to control the Balance.

Moorcock is a veteran science fiction and fantasy writer, famously known by one generation of readers for his character Jerry Cornelius and the novel The Final Programme which was cinematized in the cult film classic The Last Days of Man on Earth. Here Moorcock, who Michael Chambon compares to Tolkien, also proves he can take on Lewis Carroll in this romp which frequently calls to mind Alice in Wonderland.

"My name I Oonagh, the granddaughter of Countess Oona von Bek. This is my story of Elric, the White Wolf, and Onric, the White Wolf's son, of a talking beast in the World Below, of the League of Temporal Adventurers, the Knights of the Balance and those who serve the world; of the wonders and terrors I experienced as the forces of Law and Chaos sought the power of the Black Sword, found the source of Hell and the San Grael. All this happened several years ago, when I was still a child. It is only now that I feel able to tell my story."

In the main, Oonagh does narrate the tale, except for a couple of interruptions by Mrs. Una Persson (a former vaudevillian who worked with the aforementioned Jerry Cornelius) to provide information and a perspective not available to the young Oonagh. And quite a tale it is, too.

Except for the odd dream, Oonagh is a normal British child enjoying a stay at the ancestral manse of her grandparents in the English countryside. But it isn't long before her reality warps with the arrival of several charming but archaically dressed guests straight out of the European adventure stories of the late 1890s. Think Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, or a gathering of The League of Gentlemen variety. A balloon landing on the greens is followed by an antique automobile, the two quaint vehicles containing Colonel Bastable, the Chevalier St. Odhran, and the albino Monsieur Zodiac. They are soon joined by the German Herr Lobkowitz and the French Lieutenant Fromental. We will learn that these are the men of the LOTA, the League of Temporal Adventurers, and that they are in pursuit of Herr Klosterheim and his partner Paul von Minct, aka Lord Gaynor, seekers of the Black Sword, the Grail, and the Staff.

The next day, underground explosions, thought to be dynamiters seeking to connect a series of tunnels beneath the countryside's surface, collapse the upper crust and drop Oonagh down a figurative rabbit's hole to the World Below. She lands in the city of the Off-Moo, strange hooded creatures she recognizes from her dreams. She is befriended by Renyard von Grimmelshausen, Lord of the Deep City, who just happens to be a six foot, fully dressed and well-read Fox of courtly manners. Although he's not late for a very important date, he often enables Oonagh to keep important engagements and acts as her protector.

Soon, Oonagh learns of the Moonbeam Roads which enable those with the ability to travel from one time and location to another, jumping back and forth and across continents at will. She also learns of the Multiverse in which there are infinite versions of each time period albeit with different technology, history, and different roles for the participants. So it is that one may advance a step in one time frame only to take two steps back in another.

Oona is propelled through a whimsical alternate version of Europe where England is ruled from the city of Londra by King Huon, an evil head kept alive in an orb. She encounters an Oracle in the guise of a talking house and meets Oona, who may or may not be her great-grandmother, accompanied by a black panther and a retinue of a dozen American Indians. Along the way, Oonagh must learn how she fits into the great game that is afoot, why she is pursued by Klosterheim and von Minct and how she is related to the many people she meets who remind her of other relatives.

Moorcock has created a beguiling universe of whimsical characters and devices that is both familiar, comfortable yet fresh. Though the trappings, such as retro technology like steam-powered flying machines, may smack of Verne, the fantasy is of our time. Moorcock deftly carries the reader from one time, location and dimension to another while keeping the plot and characters clear.

A prior knowledge of the events in The Dreamthief's Daughter and The Skrayling Tree seem unnecessary to an enjoyment or understanding of this story, although they most likely would enrich it. Because it does not transpire in a universe totally removed from reality, The White Wolf's Son: The Albino Underground, might make a good introductory novel for those who have held back from reading Sword & Sorcery fiction. Regardless, it is an entertaining tale with a compelling story and well-drawn characters.

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