I wasn’t sure what to expect from Moonchild. Aleister Crowley is either a complete nut-case or brilliant philosopher, depending on who you ask. I was hoping this book would be along the lines of The Fountainhead, a story wrapped up in the author’s theories on life. The book instead is more like a magick apologia wrapped around a meandering disjointed story.
Books like this are forgiven if the main story is good enough to stand on its own. Moonchild’s story doesn’t accomplish this. It has many strange diversions that don’t really have to do with the main plot, though in its defense, many of the diversions are well written and interesting on their own.
The beginning is fairly strong and engaging, but it started losing me about two thirds of the way through—there’s just not enough story there to carry the book. Then, in the last few chapters the book does a very abrupt about face (in the space of less than two pages) and starts into a whole World War I story. This thankfully only lasts a few chapters at which point the book ends. This subplot almost completely ignores the first twenty chapters of the book and seemed very out of place.
Sadly, the titular child of the moon gets born on one page and is quickly disposed of one paragraph later, which was a huge let down considering that the first three quarters of the book build up the birth of this child as if it’s the second coming of god.
I had hopes for the apologia sections too because they started on a high note of trying to integrate magick into science which was intriguing. But sadly they quickly devolve into pathetic hand waving about how you can’t really test anything scientifically. The author wants to have it both ways—magick is science, magick is not testable by science—but you just can’t have both. Choose or stop wasting my time.
Another thing that bothered me was that the evil characters in the book had zero motivation for their actions. I just don’t buy evil for no reason at all—there’s got to be some motivation or reason that you have no compassion toward your fellow man! But these antagonists are just evil for evil’s sake which seems pretty weak. I can overlook that though—it’s not the most important criticism.
Also not the most important criticism is the misogyny and prejudices strewn throughout the book. The author doesn’t have a high view of women and much of the plot revolves around his perceived weaknesses of them. This is only forgiven given that it was written almost 100 years ago and such views were common. A modern story couldn’t stand on such conceits.
Now this all seems fairly negative, but really it was the last 50 or so pages where everything went wrong, story-wise. The beginning of the book was engaging and, after rolling my eyes at the magickal apology pieces, I was interested in the outcome of their magickal experiment. Sadly the story just doesn’t deliver in the end.