Futurism logo

Book Review: The Final Progam by Michael Moorcock.

Can a hip playboy and secret agent save the world from supervillains during the swinging London era of the 60s?

By Edward GermanPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
Cover for Titan Books 2016

The Final Program is a science fiction adventure novel written by UK author Michael Moorcock. The book is the first in a series called the Jerry Cornelius quartet, after its protagonist, who works as a secret agent for hire. The story was published in 1968 by Avon Books in paperback. Then in the following year, a hardback edition was published in the UK. The novel is 168 pages long and is the only Michael Moorcock story to be made into a motion picture.

I have seen the movie only once, and I recently read the novel. I will discuss a little of both in my article. The Final Program is the first and only Michael Moorcock story I have read. Therefore, I am not familiar with his work. I have been listening to a podcast on Michael Moorcock that has given me insight into the author's body of work.

About the Book.

The novel takes place in the UK and other parts of Europe during the 1960s, albeit in an alternative universe. In this setting, the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union still exists but, the world seems to be on the brink of collapse. The planet is not entirely dysfunctional, but it seems to be proceeding towards it. The sub-culture of the Underground is still relevant in the story; Jerry Corlieious is very involved in the lifestyle. The movement consisted of casual drug use, its style of music, and an alternate lifestyle. The Underground was very similar to the hippie movement in the US.

By Robin Jonathan Deutsch on Unsplash

The novel begins with Jerry Colinelus meeting with Miss Brunner and her associates. Miss Brunner and company want to break into a home once owned by Jerry's father. The estate now controlled by Jerry's brother Frank houses some microfilm that Miss Brunner needs to obtain. Miss Brunner believes that the information contained in the film is pertinent to her plans. Miss Brunner is a computer programmer and needs the microfilm the Final Program. The Progam, she believes, will create a unifying force in the cosmos. Jerry agrees to help Miss Brunner by arranging for a group of mercenaries to assault the estate where his brother now lives. Also, Jerry's sister, who is also living at the estate, is a captive of her brother Frank. Jerry wants to free her due to a falling out with his brother Frank whom Jerry believes has stolen his inheritance.

Jerry's mercenaries and Miss Brunner's associates assault the estate in which most of the group dies in the process. The estate, protected by armed guards, and specially designed traps, prove to be deadly for Jerry's group. Jerry does find his sister; however, she gets in the way of Jerry and Frank, then accidentally killed by Jerry. Frank escapes while Miss Brunner and Jerry head back to London. Jerry spends some time recuperating in hospital after being wounded in the attack, afterword he spends some time partying in London.

Miss Brunner catches up with Jerry in London; Miss Brunner tells him that she has a lead on where his brother might be. Jerry and Miss Brunner pursue the information, and it takes them to a remote part of Sweden near the Arctic Circle. Once there, they find the remnants of a secret base used by the Germans in WW2. The facility designed to be a missile base for the Third Rech never saw any action. The installation contained long-range missiles intended to strike North America; however, the war ended before deployment. Jerry catches up with his brother Frank and kills him in the caverns within the secret base; he had been hiding there since he left the estate.

Miss Brunner decides the location is perfect for her plan. She invites dozens of experts, picked by Jerry, and puts them to work on her program. Miss Brunner has experts construct a massive supercomputer inside the facility to complete her plans. However, there is much more going on than she is telling Jerry. Miss Brunner has plans to create a new being from the lab equipment made for her using some other scientific knowledge. She tells Jerry they will be merged as a single being once the process is complete. Jerry is a bit reluctant to do this but decides to go along. The aftermath is a new human being that results in a new species.

The Movie.

The Final Program was, as of this date, the only Moorcock story to be made into a motion picture. The film was made in the UK in 1973 but was released one year later in the US. The movie stared Jon Finch as Jerry Cornelius and Jenny Runacre as Miss Brunner. The run time for The Final Program was 94 mins for the UK version while the US version was 76 mins. The movie did not do well at the box office and received criticism as a terrible motion picture. Even Michael Moorcock was critical of the movie version.

I first saw the movie adaptation in college during my early 20s. I rented the movie on VHS and watched it one night and, I thought it was a very interesting sci-fi b-movie at the time. I have not watched it recently and, I have wanted to watch it again. The movie is available on home video and distributed by Anchor Bay entertainment. Also, a Blue-Ray edition by Shout! Factory which, includes extras, was released in January of 2020

Here are some thoughts on the Final Program.

The story is intriguing and begins as an action-adventure story but then transforms into a science fiction story. Jerry is not only a secret agent but also a scientist as well. Then he transforms into a hedonist when he is not working. According to Moorcock, he dislikes Jerry portrayed as a secret agent but more as an adventurer. Jerry does carry a weapon of his design, a dart gun that shoots steel darts at his opponents. A type of weapon a secret agent may utilize.

Miss Brunner is quite a unique person as well. It seems like she has some form of paranormal power. She sleeps with both male and female victims, and the following day they have disappeared, leaving only their attire behind. When Jerry asks what had happened, Miss Brunner states the person has left and won't be returning. An impression that she is a psychic vampire living off the life force of others seems apparent.

The novel did have some controversy when first published in the US. The book had LBTQ themes within the storyline. A minor character, a pop singer whose appearance was very brief and early in the novel. This person was a male transitioning into a female. Other minor characters are some of Jerry's friends, and some suggestions are made of their orientation also. The US edition got censored but was later revised to include the original material.

I did enjoy reading this story. What I found most profound about the characters was how amoral they were towards to rest of the world. Miss Brunner never gave it a second thought about killing anyone who got in her way. While Jerry was a bit more cautious but he would kill other human beings without remorse, Jerry seems to be more of an anti-hero rather than the moral straight squared-jawed hero of the old-style pulps. He cares about his friends and doesn't want to see them harmed. He evens tries to protect them when in danger.

The novel is an easy read and not difficult to follow along. It moves very quickly through the plot and holds your interest. If you like this sub-genre of science fiction, it is a good read for any fan. The story does have plenty of action scenes along with intellectual thoughts.

A podcast on all things Michael Moorcock

A great podcast to learn more about Michael Moorcock is called Breakfast in the Ruins. The podcast, named after a Moorcock novel of the same name, originates from the UK and is hosted by a long-time Moorcock fan. I have listened to two episodes of the show on the Final Program, and it has given me insight into Moorcock's stories.

You can follow the podcast on Twitter.

book review

About the Creator

Edward German

A long-time sci-fi fan who loves the internet. I am also writing on subjects other than sci-fi.

you can follow me on "X" @EdwardGerman3 Listen to my podcast The 1950s Science Fiction Podcast on Spotify for Podcasters.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.