Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Secrets Of The Nine!

At long last I've read Philip J Farmer's twin novels The Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin (also called Keeper of the Secrets). I've been waiting years to read these sequels to A Feast Unknown, the powerful and rude story of a secret society called "The Nine",  near immortals and their clandestine organization built around the offer of exceedingly long life. This is story of Tarzan of the Apes and Doc Savage hidden under the names "Lord Grandrith" and "Doc Caliban". In that story reviewed here, these two mighty heroes battle one another until they see the need for an alliance against their former masters.

These novels, originally an ACE Double novel, tell the story of that revolt. The story is told from two perspectives, the first from Lord Grandrith's as part of his extensive autobiography, of which this tale comprises the tenth part. He describes his battle across the landscape of Africa to get to the Nine's headquarter's high atop a well-guarded mountain. He has to battle against enemy agents and treachery and his own limitations to find his way forward. Doc Caliban's story is told from his perspective but in third person and relates how he and his two aides Pauncho and Barney battle Iwaldi, dubbed "The Mad Goblin", a renegade member of the Nine. The battle takes place at a German castle and surrounding territory and pits this particular Man of Bronze against enemy soldiers and a menagerie of animals transformed into weapons.

Both novels offer up relatively brutal images of the ferocious battles the two heroes wage in their war against the Nine. For the record the climatic battle in both books takes place on the ancient fields of Stonehenge.  Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban do achieve some success against the Nine over the course of these sagas. These novels have eliminated the copious sexual content of the original entry, though it's easy to see where such sequences could be added with little trouble. There's little doubt these heroes are the same relentless protagonists we first encountered in the first gruesome installment.

The novels including (dubbed "The Secrets of the Nine" numbers two and three with number one being A Feast Unknown) deliver all the wild energy Philip Farmer was famous for. The action barely stops, but still Farmer finds time to render fascinating details about the impressive back stories he's created for his mythical homages to creations which rattled from the typewriters of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lester Dent. It's clear that Farmer adored these characters, and wanted desperately to fashion his own playground for them. He does so magnificently in these volumes.

The versions I read are the new ones from Titan Publishing and are filled with background information by men dedicated to keeping the Wold Newton Universe alive and flourishing. To be blunt there's almost an avalanche of detail, so much that making sense of it can be tedious. There's a balance needed when crafting these faux worlds, and a writer must be careful not to weigh the concept down with too many twists and  complications. In the case of the Alternate Universe notion developed here from Farmer's own fragments, the story of these heroes may have crossed that fine line.

There's  none of that thankfully in these tales by Farmer, which bristle with energy and verse. Check them out by all means.

Rip Off


  1. I'm almost tempted, Rip - but 'The Mad Goblin'? H'mm, I dunno. Sounds a bit lame. Maybe one day.

    1. Farmer is clearly trying to evoke the pulp titles of some of Doc Savage's adventures like "The Sargasso Ogre", "The Squeaking Goblin", "World's Fair Goblin", "The Gold Ogre", "The Evil Gnome", and "The Flying Goblin". Frankly I love its tasty pulp twang.

      Rip Off


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