Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Feast Unknown!

A Feast Unknown is not the Wold Newton novel for everyone. It's rude and crude and spends an unusual amount of time and space discussing the behavior of errant pricks of all sorts as one sort try to viciously kill each other and another sort are erupting at all manner of inappropriate times. This novel first appeared under the imprint of a porn house, and it shows. There is a lot of aberrant sex in this work, but apart from normal pornography this tale lacks an element of titillation for which that other stuff is mostly designed to deliver. There's a droll and dry presentation to the events which unfold furiously which intentionally undermines the prurient aspects of the story and instead keeps the reader focused on the main plot. I first read A Feast Unknown some decades ago and was taken aback by its content, but still remembered it fondly as a thoroughly complete action yarn. So I was eager to read it again now that's it has been reprinted in Titan Books efforts to get the Wold Newton novels back into the hands of readers.

Lord Grandrith by Rich Corben

That story is that of Lord Grandrith who is Farmer's Wold Newton stand in for Tarzan of the Apes. Grandrith has been alive a very long time and finds himself suddenly under attack in his jungle home by a small army of the local soldiery under the apparent command of Doc Caliban a thinly disguised version of Doc Savage. (Monk and Ham are on hand too, though a good sight older.) It is a particularly blood-thirsty Caliban who seems to want nothing more than Grandrith's demise. After much mucking about in the jungle we finally encounter The Nine, a mysterious group of ancients who control many of the world's most powerful people by doling out an elixir which grants relative immortality. Both Grandrith and Caliban are servants of The Nine and it finally comes out that Caliban believes that Grandrith has killed his cousin and one true love. A great deal of mayhem unravels the mystery and we learn along with Grandrith and Caliban secrets about their own origins.

Doc Caliban and Fab Two by Rich Corben

It's a rockem' sockem' story as the violence and action hardly relents. Apart from the depravity many of the players display, there is also a fantastic car chase, a valiant battle within a castle, and an absolute heap of weird characters. The story's focus on matters weirdly sexual dominates the first part of the tale, but gives way in the last half as the action quickens in anticipation of the finale.

A Feast Unknown is not a novel for everyone, but it is a novel I'd recommend to anyone interested in Tarzan, Doc Savage, or pulps in general and who is not put off by the truly offbeat and peculiar. It's a strange and arresting novel, and a highly memorable one.

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  1. Um, No
    Philip Jose Farmer
    Why Waist Your Time
    Go To REAL Stories (I Know You Do)
    ERB, Lester Dent, Walter B. Gibson
    Farmer Wrote What We Now Call Internet Fan Fiction
    And It's Never As Good

  2. Farmer's best rises well above fan fiction. A Feast Unknown is a good example where he is of course writing about heroes which fascinate him, but he is also commenting on them in the way he presents them and what he has them do. The over-the-top violence is suggestive as is all the not-at-all-repressed sexuality. Farmer is taking those cherished pulp themes and slicing them open for consideration. It's worthy stuff, and I'll confess fun.

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  3. Fantastic book that has been too long out of print, like most of Farmer's work. Thank god Titan's rereleasing out a bunch of his stuff. Although the cover for this seems to have changed from the Doc Savage and Tarzan lookalikes to two bland Fabio lookalikes - guess they were worried about copyright infringement?

    1. Edit - Never mind. The cover I'm talking about must have been the preliminary - glad they went with an illustration instead.

    2. Street and Smith do seem to guard Doc zealously. I've not read anything about The Apocalyptic Life of Doc Savage getting a reprint. That's a book that deserves, nay demands a larger audience. Hopefully someone can get that done. I have a copy, but it's weathered.

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  4. No Sir
    Do Not Take My Heros... TARZAN, CLARK SAVAGE, Jr
    And Recreate A "False" History
    Just Have A Hard Time P.J. Farmer Writing New Stories

    No Problem With
    Mother Was A Lovely Beast
    Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life
    That's History
    Just Don't Write New Adventures

    1. I'm cool with new stuff as long as it's respectful of what came before. Folks can argue that much of Farmer's is not, but I think his adoration for the creations overcomes his alterations. He has a reason for changing stuff when he does, agree with it or not.

      Altus Books is publishing new Doc adventures by Will Murray. These seem like solid enough representatives of the genre. I think it's the only way Doc will continue to live on.

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