Saturday, May 10, 2014
Recently finished President Fu-Manchu, the latest in Titan Books reprints of the notorious series starring the ultimate "Yellow Peril" threat. And I have to give the book a hearty thumbs up. This in fact might be the most thoroughly entertaining Fu-Manchu novel yet.
Originally published in 1936, this story set in America focuses on Fu-Manchu's attempts to influence the Presidential elections and put in place his own man, a man dedicated to transforming the United States into a utopian paradise, at least as seen from the distinct perspective of the deadly Doctor. In this one Sir Denis Nayland Smith ("enemy number one") is joined by a U.S. Army medical man named Hepburn, who fills the role of the dashing young hero. He predictably finds a woman attached to the plot of Fu-Manchu who he falls head-over-heels in love with (as it the wont with these books), but there are a few twists on the typical element. One new character this time is a mysterious man who serves the Devil Doctor as a living memory bank, the nerve center of his communications network. He turns out to be a fascinating figure.
The story has a strong pulp impetus to it, which succeeds very well in keeping it from falling into the episodic pattern of earlier novels. This helps the overall momentum of the complete tale which has a sufficient mystery to keep the reader interested right through. Fu-Manchu's plot is a surprisingly serious one this time, not reliant on mysticism as much as human nature and the the proper desire by humans for a better world. In this novel, more than any other yet, you get the perspective of Fu-Manchu and what he's up to. He seems at some fundamental level to believe his way forward is best for everyone, despite its obvious limitations to human freedom. Dictators were the coming thing in the 30's for a host of reasons, and this novel plays neatly into those aspects of world history.
It's a hopping good read, and is highly recommended.