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The Warlord of the Air (Oswald Bastable #1)

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,191 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Suppose that a few of our present inventions had been made earlier, and others not discovered at all? How would the last century have evolved differently?

This is the story of Oswald Bastable, a Victorian captain who found himself in such alternate worlds. It is based on notes handed down to Michael Moorcock from his great-grandfather. It's a story of a world of empires sec
Mass Market Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 1st 1971 by Ace Books
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Best Steampunk Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,622)
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J.G. Keely
As ever, Moorcock is a wry, clever author full of ideas and insights, but he ends up rushing from one moment to another when I wish that he would let his stories play out. The characters and their relationships were intriguing and promising, but Moorcock tends to fall back on exposition instead of showing the development of his characters and plot through interaction and carefully-constructed scenes. The scope of his tales rarely seem to match the length of his books.

I have great appreciation fo
Nov 20, 2009 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steampunk
Very good, if your into steampunk, which i very much am. It was so neat to read some that was written in the 70's and compare it with the steampunk genre today. This is the first book in a 3-novel volume i'm reading about Oscar Bastable called The Nomad of Time, if you have a more recently published copy, it is now called The Nomad of the Time Streams.
Moorcock's story, if it wasn't for the fantastical aspects, very much reminded me of George Orwell actually, in the way it covered British coloni
3.5 Stars

Intentionally written in the style of H.G. Wells as well as the pulp science fiction of the early 20th Century (seePhilip Francis Nowlan), but with modern (late sixties and early seventies) sensibilities. Having been a fan of this type of science fiction since my childhood I found "The Warlord of the Air" to be great fun. Mr. Moorcock combines Victorian and mid-twentieth century attitudes and throws the story at us with a wink since the inside joke is that we (the readers) already know
Charles Dee Mitchell
Jul 05, 2013 Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it
In 1971, Michael Moorcock receives from his father a box of his grandfather's, and namesake's, papers. In the box is a typewritten manuscript prepared by the first Michael Moorcock in the year 1903. It is the transcript of a narrative related to the elder Moorcock by Oswald Bastable, an opium-addicted stowaway he encounters while taking a kind of rest cure on Rowe Island in the Indian Ocean. (Rowe Island is Moorcock's -- our Moorcock's -- invention.)

Bastable was a British officer serving in the
Andrew Lasher
Apr 26, 2010 Andrew Lasher rated it it was amazing
Oswald Bastable IS steampunk. There may have been earlier examples of the genre, and perhaps there are later examples that more solidly explore the ideas behind steampunk, but the Nomad of the Timestreams trilogy is the definition of steampunk to me.

While a dimension hopping, time traveling Oswald Bastable might seem to be a hard pill to swallow, it is written with such an honest face that not only could I suspend my disbelief, I could almost turn full circle and believe that I was reading a his
The Warlord of the Air is an early example of steampunkery, written in the early seventies. I've never read Michael Moorcock before, nor have I read much SF from the seventies. In fact, I haven't read much steampunk, either. So, that combination of factors may color my response to the book.

The story: guy goes to temple in India in 1902, gets transported to the same temple in the seventies. Gets picked up by an airship, and starts to realize where he is--well, WHEN he is, I guess. He discovers t
Jan 08, 2011 Old-Barbarossa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Moorcock doing what I think he does best. Taking characters from his giant toybox of “Eternal Champion” archetypes and throwing them into Hx, then shaking them about into alternate realities and times.
Bastable meets some old favourites (Una and I think Jerry have cameos), and some real characters (Joseph Conrad as airship captain, Mick Jagger as soldier) as he travels through time and gets caught up in revolution.
Presented as a found manuscript, by his grandfather, this may be the opium addled r
Apr 01, 2015 Derek rated it it was ok
In general the book was more successful in its ideas than in its story: the author gets carried away with the description of life in alternate 1973 and the exploration of the results of unchecked imperialism, and then skimps on the story aspects of plot and character. Much of it felt cramped, with the Warlord of the title only appearing some two-thirds through, and then Bastable experiencing a relatively fast change of heart to join him. This conversion is shown in a compressed time scale withou ...more
Tim Hicks
Sep 11, 2013 Tim Hicks rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Is Oswald Bastable sane? Dreaming? Time traveling? Dimension hopping?
Whichever, it's a fun read. Not what you might call meticulously constructed with a plot of jewel-like precision. More of a story reeled out across several drunken and/or dope-crazed evenings. But there's some social satire in there, and some buckles get swashed, and there are airships.

I won't hunt for the next volume but if it crosses my path I'll read it.
Alan Smith
Jan 29, 2014 Alan Smith rated it really liked it
This was one of the books that got me into Michael Moorcock's amazing mental vision of the universe, so obviously I have an extreme affection for it. What was truly amazing was that this was one of those rare times when upon an adult re-reading I enjoyed it even more. This novel is the first in a trilogy about Oswald Bastable (who also makes a brief appearance in the Jerry Cornelius work "The English Assassin") and all three works are absolute stonkers!

The story concerns one Mr Oswald Bastable
Artur Coelho
May 11, 2014 Artur Coelho rated it it was amazing
É nestas alturas que as etiquetas se revelam empecilhos. A tentação de descrever este livro como um excelente exemplo de obra proto-steampunk é muito grande, mas fazê-lo seria um grave erro. The Warlord of the Air não foi conscientemente escrito para iniciar um novo movimento literário, e categorizá-lo como proto-qualquer coisa é uma falta de rigor similar à que explica classificações de Wells ou Verne como escritores steam. Há quem o faça, por gritante que pareça. O problema é que hoje é imposs ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Steven rated it really liked it
I originally read this book back in the early 70s when it came out. Thought I would reread it again. This is a great tale which is suppose to be a manuscript of an ex-British soldier, Oswald Bastable, who in 1903 meets Moorcock's grandfather taking a holiday on Rowe Island. Bastable's relates how his expedition to Teku Benga in North East India propelled him 70 years into the future where airships were dominate mode of air travel both commercially and militarily. The future is pretty much a utop ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Jani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many of the novels I have read that are associated with the term steampunk, The Warlord of Air is partly a tribute. It is a tribute to the literature of the 19th century and especially the social commentary it carried; while lines can be drawn to works of Wells or Verne, it much more in line with the dystopian visions of the more socialistic writers of the period. It is a vision of a world gone wrong yet going for the same downfall that was threatening our universe at the period of its writ ...more
Thomas Fortenberry
Apr 25, 2012 Thomas Fortenberry rated it liked it
Looking back you can see how forward thinking Moorcock truly was. here we find not only one of the first examples of steampunk, but also the launch of its "Russian" subgenre, Tsarpunk. great stuff to be found in this first volume in the Bastable trilogy.
Jash Comstock
Feb 08, 2014 Jash Comstock rated it liked it
Shelves: steampunk
First let me start by saying that I love steampunk. That being said, this book disappointed me. I agree with many other reviewers that Moorcock's ideas are grand but his execution is hurried. One of the reasons I love steampunk is that generally the genre sucks you in and transports you to magnificent places. This book didn't do that for me. Oswald Bastable is a great character, but he wasn't properly fleshed out. Each phase of his story was so hurried, one never got the chance to connect with h ...more
David B
Mar 12, 2016 David B rated it liked it
The alternate history that Moorcock proposes--one in which the colonial powers maintained and expanded their empires, scientific progress was retarded and great warships dominated the skies--is interesting, but the story he places therein is not very exciting and culminates in a predictable climax. In addition, the first third of the book, which explains how adventurer Oswald Bastable traveled to the future, is really an enormous non-sequitur. There is really no reason for the protagonist of thi ...more
John Willson
Apr 14, 2016 John Willson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes fantasy and THINKS history and politics are boring.
This is one of my favourite books of all time. A soldier in British India falls into an alternate future, a 20th century in which the world wars hadn't happened. The conflict of the century is both colder and, if possible, more threatening. The military man, through action and misadventure, walks miles in the shoes of the leaders on both sides of the mid-century cold war. Does humankind's nature doom it to eternal war, no matter the circumstances? Are good and evil just the shadows cast by natio ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Moorcock tells this story in an alternative future, by the eyes of a typical soldier of the British Empire who is sent to an alternative future where the British Empire seems to have created an utopia. At least in the main character's eyes.

The British Empire after years without going to war ( the technology is not as advanced as it was back in our actual 1973) which leads to apparent economical and social advances. We will know later that the Empire is in fact lying in fragile foundations.

Tom Loock
Sep 19, 2014 Tom Loock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Again, I acted against my principle not to re-read novels I enjoyed in the past - but hey, what are principles for other than breaking?

The Warlord of the Air is a quick read, the story could be quickly told (but I will but I will not break that principle of mine and use spoilers) and most important - it's fun.

When I savoured the scene where our hero Oswald Bastable(view spoiler) Ronald Reagan (view spoiler)
Cécile C.
Nov 01, 2013 Cécile C. rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk
This book was a fairly good surprise. I'm not always a fan of Moorcock's novels (I enjoy them, but they're not particularly impressive, in my mind), but this was quite a bit more interesting than I expected. It's classic steampunk from before the word even existed, coupled with social commentary about imperialism. As social commentary, it is extremely militant: the whole point of the book is to show a misguided, narrow-minded Edwardian Englishman realising the error of his ways and siding with r ...more
Lindsay Kitson
Feb 09, 2013 Lindsay Kitson rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk
This review copy was provided by Titan Books, who just last month re-released this classic novel, originally published in the 70’s. Which I think is awesome, since Michael Moorcock is among those writers who stand accused of starting the whole steampunk thing.

The Warlord Of The Air is the story of Oswald Bastable, a man from 1902, who is mysteriously jolted out of his own time, and into the world of the (then) present, 1973. But this isn’t the 1973 that we all know and love. Oh no.

The British
Nov 09, 2013 Wise_owl rated it liked it
A thoroughly interesting dare I say it, Steampunk tale from before the generally acceptable realms of steam-punk. An early 19th century British Army Officer is flung through time to the 1970's, yet an alternate 1970's, in which global imperialism and colonialism has continued to dominate in a near century of peace. The great powers in a strange detante, Airships rulling the skies and heavier than air flying machines held to be impossible. That tale that unfolds is less about the technology of th ...more
Matti Karjalainen
Vuonna 1903 syrjäiselle saaripahaselle vetäytynyt englantilaismies saa oudon vieraan, joka kertoo tulevansa seitsemänkymmenen vuoden päästä tulevaisuudesta, aikakaudelta jolloin sodat ovat historiaa ja suurvallat ovat jakaneet maailman siirtomaihin, joita pidetään tiukassa otteessa lentävien ilmalaiva-armadoiden avustuksella.

Oswald Bastableksi esittäytyvä vieras alkaa kertoa tarinaansa, joka sisältää niin mielikuvituksellisia visioita, ettei voida varmuudella sanoa, ovatko ne vain oopiumilla mie
Apr 01, 2008 Karen rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon Mcleish
Jun 01, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in January 2000.

The War Lord of the Air is one of my favourite Moorcock novels. It inspired by turn of the century adventure stories with a fantastic element, with influences such as Buchan, Haggard and Wells as well as the tradition exemplified by (say) Lanier's Brigadier Ffellowes stories. It is a precursor of the genre known as "steampunk", with its additional element of alternate history centred around alternate technology.

Whilst on a mission to a remote
Aug 17, 2013 Shimo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lukemistojen kultakaudella seikkailu alkoi selonteolla siitä, miten kirjailija oli saanut haltuunsa nyt julkaistavan käsikirjoituksen. Vaikka tarina itsessään oli fantastinen, oli tärkeää, että uskottavuus säilyi sen suhteen, miten tarina oli nyt kantautumassa ihmiskunnna korviin. Michael Moorcock on hyvin tietoinen tästä tyyliseikasta ja käyttää sitä pettämättömästi. Hän nimittäin sai haltuunsa isoisänsä jälkeenjääneet paperit, ja tämä puolestaan oli merkinnyt muistiin omituisen ihmisraunion ke ...more
First published on Radiant Attack - Sci fi, fantasy, weird and big freakin' squid

The rise and rise of steampunk has seen an almost astronomical amount of books featuring airship captains in battle for the sky. But in 1971 Michael Moorcock wrote the original airship novel, The Warlord of the Air. Moorcock’s novel, written under the guise of his fictional grandfather (also called Michael Moorcock), makes comment on colonialism and the alternate futures of the British colonies.

Taking the character
Sep 23, 2012 Parson rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Moorcock fans, political science fiction fans
Shelves: science-fiction
(As a side note, I read this while sick so I wasn't able to take more detailed notes for a more thorough review...)

For those who enjoy political science fiction, this is a good book to pick up. It reads very quickly. Some parts are a bit dragging -- held up in too much detail and/or side remarks -- but on the whole it was an enjoyable read.

In some ways, this book can be placed side-by-side with Animal Farm. Now, this is not a comparison as these two works are completely different beasts all toge
If you’re a fan of all things steampunk, if you write steampunk, and you’ve not read this book, then you are doing it wrong. Though it starts inauspiciously, with a dirigible dropping ballast to descend, Moorcock’s airship opera is a clever commentary on imperialism framed in the language of pulp fiction. In 1902, Oswald Bastable visits the Shangri-la-like lair of an evil Indian high priest. An earthquake strikes, destroying the lair, and somehow throwing Bastable forward in time to 1973. He is ...more
Dec 27, 2013 Traummachine rated it really liked it
It's funny that wikipedia cites this as an "influential precursor" to steampunk, because it contains none of the frills (ha!) usually found in that genre. But it is the tale of an alternate version of the 1970s, where zeppelins (blimps) are common and airplanes are rare.

This uses the classic "learning the ropes" way to introduce the setting of a series. Our hero, Oswald Bastable, passes out after a mysterious force attacks him in our version of 1902. He wakes in the alternative version of the 19
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Michael John Moorcock is an English writer primarily of science fiction and fantasy who has also published a number of literary novels.
Moorcock has mentioned The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw and The Constable of St. Nicholas by Edward Lester Arnold as the first three books which captured his imagination. He became editor of Tarzan Adventures in 1956,
More about Michael Moorcock...

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“When I had first been hurled into the world of the 1970s I had thought I found Utopia. And now I was discovering that it was only a Utopia for some. Shaw wanted a Utopia which would exist for all.” 0 likes
“The mask of kindly patronage had dropped away to show the hatred and the fear beneath.” 0 likes
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