Book Reviews
Moonchild: Aleister Crowley
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on Moonchild: Aleister Crowley
Moonchild: Aleister Crowley

Lisa la Giuffria, friend of a famous dancer (shades of Isadora Duncan here), meets an enigmatic man at a party and is instantly smitten. Cyril Grey is a young magician in a magickal order involved in a struggle against the forces of the Black Lodge, a dark order that he all but destroyed some years before. The plot centres around the good magicians supposedly using Lisa to put a certain theory regarding the existence and nature of the human soul to the test and the bad ones trying to foil their attempts and dispatch Grey at the same time.

Written in 1917 and very dated, with many references that would be obscure to most non-historians, this is not the best of writing. The style is patchy and sometimes garbled with too much magickal philosophy inserted into the text, firstly in the mouth of Simon Iff, an old and masterful magician. Later this pretence is discarded and the instruction issues directly and undisguisedly from the author himself. Interesting stuff for students of Thelemic theory but distracting and extremely overdone for a work of fiction. Too many sidetracks to the action for my liking, with easily forgotten descriptions and bios of minor characters as well as the main ones. Lisa and Cyril Grey could be better drawn – I couldn’t relate to them at all, or form a decent picture of them, even though Cyril is described in some detail early on. Somehow he’s not quite human (maybe that’s the point, but it hardly makes for sympathetic reading), and Lisa is a cardboard cut-out of a girl, although perhaps that’s another point in view of later happenings. Crowley’s opinion of women in general appears pretty low. The members of the Black Lodge seem like stereotypes that appear as easily as they’re magickally dispatched by the Brotherhood, or members of that mythological Irish army that reincarnated its warriors with a magic cauldron. Far too many of them and every one all too easily forgettable – I gave up trying to keep track in the end. A good editor or a talented fiction writer could have made a compelling and intensely readable story out of this, but the novel has the feel of having been published pretty much as Crowley wrote it, confidence, ego and learning large on the page, although I detected an ability to laugh at both himself and the whole scenario on occasion, as if the joke of the thing was partly at the expense of any reader who might be tempted to take it all too seriously. A redeeming twist towards the end, which however, wasn’t really explained or made good use of; the author chose instead to go off at a tangent into the current events of WW1. Having said that, the novel is interesting as a insight into the mind of the man himself – at times it seems to reveal more about Crowley than the characters who inhabit it. Worth reading for its curiosity value, although I found it a bit of a haul towards the end.

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