The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
By Philip Jose Farmer
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is very much a "literary mashup" novel which fills in the blanks from Jules Verne's classic novel "Around the World in 80 Days". It's being given a new lease of life thanks to Titan Books, originally published almost 40 years ago.
As the title suggests the novel introduces the idea that there was a second, previously unknown journal that Phileas Fogg wrote detailing a secret history of his famous trip. Farmer merges characters from some of Vernes other novels such as Captain Nemo and them blends these with other fictional works including Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series.
Rather than re-write Vernes accounts, Farmer expands the story in new directions and offers a greater insight into who (and what) the characters are. As such it makes sense if you read Around the World In Eighty Days although it's not essential. The author does an admirable job of keeping the literary style similar to Vernes, which has it's own advantages and dis-advantages; the story has an air of authenticity about it however like the novel it's based on it does feel a little dry and in places the descriptive narrative that details areas that Verne didn't know about slows the pace.
The story more than makes up for this though, it's a great tale that manages to completely change the original story without contradicting it or causing any continuity issues and the way Farmer manages to meld characters from different series is just genius (for example Captain Nemo is actually the one and same master criminal James Moriarty). It's got a slight air of the Steampunk about it too, enough to be considered part of the genre but it's also got a style all it's own. The story is set within the authors "Wold Newton" series which makes the supposition that the 1795 meteorite strike near the titular village caused genetic mutations to anyone passing by which gave them extraordinary abilities (which were then passed on to their descendants).
These alien abilities include an extremely high intelligence, superior strength and longevity along with the desire to do great "good" or great "evil" and they fall into two distinct families, the Eridanean (agents for good) and the Capelleans (villainous rogues) who battle each other in a continuous secret war.
I can't see this book being to everyone's taste, it's too close in style and form to the late 19th and early 20th century authors to appeal to all (which in itself is an admirable accomplishment and clearly intended) but anyone who can see the entertaining story and insightful ideas through the slightly dry narrative, or indeed likes the style and form of the classic authors such as Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Edgar Rice Burroughs should love it.
Written on 15th June 2012 by Ant .