Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Feast Unknown

Phillip Jose Farmer is the first of the 'F's. I'd read an enjoyed his Riverworld series years ago, and although I was aware that much of his other work shared a certain reputation amongst SFF readers I still wanted to read some more of him, so A Feast Unknown interested me.

The premise is pretty fantastical. Lord Grandrith (a thinly disguised version of Tarzan) and Doc Caliban (an equally thinly disguised version of another pulp hero; Doc Savage) are both the sons of Jack the Ripper, but have grown up far apart and are not aware that they are in fact half brothers.

Calban, believing that Grandrith has abducted and killed his cousin goes after the King of the Apes (Grandrith refers to them as the Free Folk) in Africa. The two men find that they have actually been duped into conflict by the Nine (an ancient council that controls the world), so team up against the Nine, but eventually fight due to an old prophecy that Caliban believes in. The book is left fairly open ended and there were at least two sequels.

Much of it read like a contemporary action/adventure novel and could have almost been written by Wilbur Smith, except for the Nine (although some of the stuff in the Warlock series was equally crazy) and the regular references to erections and ejaculation. Farmer seems to have a fascination for it. I understood that both Grandrith and Caliban were physically aroused by the act of violent killing, I did not need it reiterated every single time this happened. Apparently this is also a theme in other Farmer novels.

It's never been made clear if the Tarzan and Savage in this book are related or one and the same as the characters in Farmer's Wold Newton concept and related novels.

I did appreciate the regular comments Grandrith used to refer to his 'biographer' and how he corrected him or filled in blanks. Edgar Rice Burroughs is never mentioned by name, but there can be little doubt as to who Grandrith's biographer was.

It was a fairly unremarkable read, the action sequences were done well, but the repeated and intricated detailed sexual reactions to the act of killing were both repetitious and unnecessary.

I'm not really sure why Riverworld (at least the first book; To Your Scattered Bodies Go), wasn't recommended instead of this as an instance of Farmer's work. It may be due to the fact that some of it is science fiction, but it's a far better book and better known.

If you wanted to read in this vein I'd recommend Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan books, if you wanted to read more Phillip Jose Farmer then you can't go past the Riverworld series.

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