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The Mad Goblin (Secrets of the Nine #3 - Wold Newton Parallel Universe) Kindle Edition
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The Mad Goblin (a Doc Caliban solo story) was written and published a year later in 1970 as half of an Ace Double Paperback and had a very mainstream release. The Lord Of The Trees (a Lord Grandrith solo story) was the other side of the double. The two novels are intertwined but not to the point of distraction. In other words events happening in the other book are just referred to.
This being written for a 1970 mainstream publisher the sex has been removed and resolved as a plot point in Feast and the Violence has been toned down. All though a fight between Doc and his two trusty aides and a 1200 lbs. Grizzly Bear in The Mad Goblin is extremely violent and brutal.
The story is about Doc Caliban and two young aides Pancho and Barney the sons of the Monk & Ham counterparts who where written out of the story in the first novel. The story opens with the three adventurers invading a German Castle belonging to Iwaldi (the Mad Goblin) a member of The Nine who secretly rule the world.
Since it is now 1969 things have evolved for Doc who has some new inventions he developed since his 1940 adventures. Like Blood Building capsules and spray on quick healing flesh. The bad guys also have some new inventions like motion detection lights (hey that's real now) and radio controlled attack animals.
While not as ground breaking as a Feast Unknown, it reads like a very good Doc Savage story.
Farmer started writing a third Doc Caliban story The Monster On Hold but never completed it before his death. I hope one day Win Scott Eckert or one of his writing partners finishes and someone publishes that book.
The events of this novel and Lord of the Trees occur concurrently, with half brothers, Caliban and Lord Grandrith taking the fight to the Nine. Caliban has taken Iwaldi, the titular Mad Goblin as his target.
The Mad Goblin is a lot of fun, there are some really cool scenes, such as the bear fight, and the scenes beneath an ancient castle in general. This is a great book that I think Doc Savage fans will enjoy.
It hooks up with Lord of the Trees during the climax, for an amazing battle scene between the Cloamby Brothers and the Nine at the sight of Stonehenge. Definitely a thrilling pulpy adventure, but told by a master of fiction. Highly recommended.
These alternate universe versions of early 20th century pulp super-stars Tarzan and Doc Savage were depicted the way PJF always wanted to see them: As great human beings who battled the inner human foibles that all humans are saddled with as strongly as they did the various evil-doers with whom they clashed; as opposed to paragons of nobility who were nearly as bereft of sin or base tendencies as a certain guy named Christ. Doc Caliban was a scientific genius as well as a marvelous physical specimen of human attainment, with technical inventing and medical skills that matched his great physical might, fighting skills, and strategical acumen as a natural leader on the crime-fighting field. But while his more familiar dimensional counterpart Doc Savage was portrayed as more or less asexual, Caliban had a normal drive that he did his best to suppress in order to keep his mind on his all-important work... except for his dalliances under the table (figuratively, but probably literally also) with his extravagantly beautiful cousin Trish Wilde. PJF's versions of the characters transgress in ways their "official" literary counterparts would never be depicted as doing (at least not back in the old days), and as a result, we relate to them in addition to admiring them, even if they do turn our stomachs at times.
THE MAD GOBLIN continues the story begun at the end of A FEAST UNKNOWN, where James "Doc" Caliban and his half-brother John Cloamby III, a.k.a., Lord Grandrith vow to pool their resources into hunting and killing the tremendously powerful secret cadre of near-immortal oligarchs known as the Council of Nine, whom they shamefully operated in servitude to for many years in exchange for their priceless life-extending elixir. That is, until they found out the Nine manipulated them into battling each other as part of a brutal ritual to see who would replace the member of the Nine that had just recently died... this being the dreaded XauXaz, the grandsire of both men. Deciding to make up for their years of servility to the evil Nine after this major wake-up call, the two operate on different fronts to take down the Nine. Grandrith's front is told in the first sequel to PJF's "Secrets of the Nine" trilogy, LORD OF THE TREES; Caliban's part is told in the third volume that is the subject of this review.
The result is one of the best Doc Savage adventures ever, even if it was "only" an alternate reality counterpart of the Man of Bronze. Doc Caliban does his esteemed dimensional lineage proud as the Man of Bronze of his timeline. In fact, PJF's portrayal in this novel served as a good precursor to his later penning of the fully authorized Doc Savage novel ESCAPE FROM LOKI, depicting his first major adventure, and how he met the allies who would become his Fabulous Five team. And for this novel, PJF gave us pastiches of the offspring of Doc's two most famous aides, Andrew "Monk" Mayfair and Theodore "Ham" Brooks, who inherited their parents' traits to the point that Pauncho van Veelar and Barney Banks may as well have been younger versions of the originals brought forward in time. Their friendly banter and rivalry, highly reminiscent of their parents', makes for a strange coincidence that the reader is able to accept just to have these familiar personalities along for the ride with Doc Caliban.
Recruiting Pauncho and Barney alongside Trish, Doc Caliban launches a savage (pun intended) hunt and offensive against the Nine, specifically taking on the renegade member of the immortal oligarchs known as Iwaldi, an ancient dwarf who is forced to fend off attacks from, and stay one step ahead of, both his former comrades and Caliban and his crew. Iwaldi is actually the titular character of the novel, as "The Mad Goblin" is a nom du guerre given to the diminutive terror, and it's quite fitting considering the incredible combo of resources and ruthlessness he has at his beck and call. A more dangerous foe has rarely been faced by Doc Caliban's famous dimensional counterpart (save perhaps for John Sunlight), and Doc and his team face a challenge that is almost beyond even their ability to overcome. The amazing assortment of gadgets and inventions invented by Doc and used as weapons, healing aides, breathing aides, sensory aides, disguise purposes, etc., are there on full display, and PJF has an amazing grasp of this aspect of the character. As always, he did the research -- and then some -- before penning this tale.
The most fantastic and suspenseful sequence of the entire book, IMO, is the grueling unarmed battle Doc, Pauncho, and Barney are forced to engage in with a mighty Kodiak bear, perhaps the greatest and most painful challenge faced by any dimensional iteration of the Man of Bronze. If you think Tarzan's battles with lions were impressive, wait until you see this!
The Titan edition of the book is the best one ever published, as it includes a timeline detailing the history shared by the Nine, Caliban, and Grandrith, culled from many sources, and how it intertwines with the reality of the "mainstream" Wold Newton Universe, which is home to the familiar versions of the characters. This timeline was courtesy of Win Scott Eckert, today's chief caretaker of the concept introduced by PJF back in his two ground-breaking para-biographies, TARZAN ALIVE: A DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY OF LORD GREYSTOKE and DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE, which soon followed PJF's "Secrets of the Nine" trilogy in publication. This carefully crafted timeline will make clear all connections between the two universes that some readers may have found confusing.
The best of a terrific trilogy, this book is highly recommended for all fans of pulp adventure, as well as all fans of Doc Savage, as this pastiche will give you a frank interpretation of the character that may offend some, but will truly fascinate others. I truly hope to see more Doc Caliban stories and novels in the future, as writers like Win Scott Eckert and Christopher Paul Carey -- each of whom helped PJF complete a novel he started (THE EVIL IN PEMBERLEY HOUSE and THE SONG OF KWASIN, respectively) -- have done a good job of serving as PJF's successors, continuing the worlds he built for future generations. PJF wrote a fragment for an unfinished Doc Caliban follow-up novel called A MONSTER ON HOLD, and it would be awesome to not only see it completed, but also for new Doc Caliban novels and novellas to appear.