Thursday, June 18, 2015

Re-Enter Fu-Manchu!


Re-Enter Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer was first published in 1957, the first of the Fu-Manchu novels to not be serialized before being collected.


This story, appearing a full decade after the last starring "The Devil Doctor" was first published by Gold Medal Books as a paperback with a lush and provocative cover by Bayre Phillips.

The story alas is not a particularly strong one, and for the simple reason that we are presented the story from the perspective of Brian Merrick, who turns out to be one of the dullest adventure protagonists it's possible imagine. He's a self-absorbed son of privilege who approaches his duties with the seriousness of an afternoon tennis match and spends a good deal of the narrative hot and bothered that he's so ill-used by his master Sir Dennis Nayland Smith.


The mystery set in the heyday of the Cold War is not a very palpable one, and the danger seems oddly remote. The blood and thunder which activates most pulp yarns is almost completely absent from this story which progresses along with little in the way of true feeling. For one thing, Fu-Manchu is entirely too present in the story, appearing almost from the beginning and not operating in the shadows as he most often does.

The romance which often overtakes the heroes of these stories seems lackluster and staid having little if any erotic component. There is little in the way of the exotic evident to tickle the nose of a Fu-Manchu fan. In fact I cannot think of a single detail in this story which I'd label as truly fantastic, other than perhaps Fu-Manchu's revival through his infamous elixir very early in the story.

It does pick up some steam a bit in the final third, but it's a while to get to that point. Sax Rohmer was writing these for the checks at this point it seems and while I cannot blame him for that, I likewise cannot really recommend this one to anyone not interested in reading all of the canon.

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2 comments:

  1. I think it's safe to say that I won't be bothering to read this one then, Rip. (I loved the Boris Karloff Fu Manchu movies.)

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    Replies
    1. Boris Karloff owned that part, he was magnificently over-the-top. This one is a miss, but some of the earlier stuff is quite potent.

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