Monday, April 6, 2015

The Shadow Of Fu-Manchu!

The Shadow of Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer was first published in 1948, seven years after the previous installment. This yarn is good enough but lacks some of the grotesque depth of its predecessors. The story is a fairly straightforward yarn with the obligatory maguffin that the insidious Fu-Manchu longs to get his slender-fingered paws upon. As always it is defended by Sir Nayland Smith, but we are absent any appearance by Dr.Petrie or any of the usual gang who help Smith along on his missions.

The story this time is in reality a bit of a spy-thriller with Fu-Manchu's agents in competition with those of the dreaded Communists out of the Soviet Union, and both are after the invention of Dr. Morris Craig, a vaguely described energy weapon which can disintegrate all sorts of things and poses a threat to world peace much like the atomic bomb for which it is a literary stand in. Dr. Craig is a bit of a naive dope who though brilliant in the lab seems wildly incapable of understanding the basics of security, and so has to be spoon fed by Sir Nayland who shows up to try and save the day. The exotic beauty this time is a woman named Camille Navarre who has a multitude of secrets and of course falls in live with Craig who predictably does likewise.

There are scuds of secrets in this one, few of which are really all that deep. The final reveal is a bit of a surprise but seems to make the whole of the adventure a tad less important and opens up some serious questions about some of Fu-Manchu's previous schemes. The Fu-Manchu of this story is even more inscrutable than normal and I suspect it's because his motives don't really add up after all is said and done, so the less said the better.

This is a story with few twists but a few turns. The surprises are by and large easy to detect and the whole utter weirdness of a typical Fu-Manchu story is missing. We are treated to a properly bizarre zombie servant, but there's very little else which speaks of the distinctive nature of the threats the Devil Doctor usually supplies.

This is a solid read, but hardly are rousing one. You can sort of tell Rohmer is running out of gas a bit with these stories. The next Fu-Manchu novel will not arrive for yet another decade in 1957.

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