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To my knowledge this is the first collection focused entirely on Wold Newton Fiction. Many of the new stories are making their mass market debut and the older Farmer stories are back in print after many years. It is wonderful to have all of these stories available in one collection for the first time. This is a thick book and you really get a lot of bang for you buck both in quality and quantity of diverse fiction set in the Wold Newton Universe.
You might be wondering what the Wold Newton Universe is and what it has to do with the pulps. I would highly recommend you read the introduction to this collection by Win Scott Eckert and Christopher Paul Carey who explain this very well. Though in brief, I will say Wold Newton gets its name from the real life rural English village. In which on December 17th 1795 a meteorite landed nearby. Philip Jose Farmer discovered two coaches passed by the crash site and the coach drivers and passengers (whom some were already of heroic stock) had their genes further enriched by the ionization of the meteor. Some of these passengers and many of their descendants would go on to be legendary heroes & villains. Their families would later inter marry each other further strengthening these genes so they would become dominant and not recessive. Farmer would call this group the Wold Newton Family. He first discusses them in his biographies Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (Bison Frontiers of Imagination) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. Both Tarzan and Doc Savage are Wold Newton Family members. Additionally, Win Scott Eckert would later coin the term of the Wold Newton Universe. This is used for tales that take place in the same Universe the Wold Newton Family inhabits, but does not include any Wold Newton Family members. Also, the stories of the Wold Newton Universe are thought of as taking place in our own world. Like I said, their introduction to this collection is much more thorough.
So what type of fiction is included in this anthology and how is it? That's what I'm here to tell you about. I won't go into any spoilers, but I will give an overview of each story I read with a little bit of commentary and reference. It should also be noted Eckert and Carey included mini introductions to each individual short story.
The first section of the book is titled "The Great Detective and Others"
The first story featured in this section is "The Problem of the Sore Bridge-Among Others". This is a tale by Philip Jose Farmer that features Raffles the gentleman thief and his partner Harry Manders. Farmer writes this story as Harry Manders. This piece is done in the style of a Victorian detective novel, but with science fiction elements. Raffles and Manders are investigating three cases at the same time Sherlock Holmes and Watson are. These are three cases Sherlock Holmes was never able to officially solve. In this story we find out why that is the case. Very enjoyable and blends Victorian mystery and science fiction superbly well. If you like Win Scott Eckert's Avenger trilogy I highly recommend reading this. The story has some ties to his three Avenger tales published in the Moonstone anthologies.
The next two stories in "The Great Detective and Others" Section are Ralph Von Wau Wau tales. He's an anthropomorphic dog detective. Philp Jose Farmer wrote these under the alias of Jonathan Swift Summers III. The pieces are "A Scarletin Study" and 'The Doge Whose Barque Was Worse Than His Bight". I haven't got around to reading these yet, but they do sound fun.
The next section is titled "Pulp Inspirations". No big surprise this section was something I have been looking forward to. All tales in this section are written by Philip Jose Farmer himself.
The first story is Skinburn. In this tale Farmer focuses on Kent Lane, the illegitimate son of The Shadow and Margo Lane. It seems to take place somewhere in the 1960's, maybe early 70's. Lane is a private eye, but he works for a government agency called CACO, Coordinating Agency for Cathedric Organizations. CACO's nemesis is SKIZO, it is unknown what that stands for. This is a combination of a hard boiled mystery story with espionage elements. Lane has found his body is breaking out in sun whenever he is exposed to the sunlight, hence the title. In addition to the burns he also comes under a feeling of ecstasy during this process. He has also been getting phone calls whenever he is about to go to bed with various women. This was pretty cool and had a neat ending. You are right there with Lane the whole time and its fun to try to piece together what is happening to him and who is behind it.
The second story is one of my favorite Farmer written stories. "The Freshman" is set in H.P. Lovecraft's Muskatonic University and is tied in with the Cthulhu Mythos. Interestingly enough, a reference to a Witch Doctor from Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Jungle Tales of Tarzan is also made. The story was inspired by a dream that Farmer had. The main character is Roderick Desmond, a 60 year old freshman who is just enrolling at the University. He is a known and accomplished occultist and has a nagging older mother who is in her 80's that still doesn't want to let him go. He soon discovers a powerful professor and his fraternity wish to take him on as a student and a member. This is a really good story, I was super impressed with it. This was written way before the time of Harry Potter, but I think anyone who likes the Potter books would find this interesting. Some really cool world building is started here. Farmer also makes reference to a few Cthulhu Mythos deities. I believe if Farmer wrote more stories set around the school, Muskatonic University would be just as well known as Hogwarts.
The third story "After King Kong Fell" deals with the climactic escape, rampage and fall of the legendary King Kong (1933) [HD]. This was actually a pretty touching piece as Farmer goes into some pretty deep thought regarding the events of the movie and novel. The story is framed with Tim Howller, who was 12 years old at the time of the event telling his granddaughter his first hand account. It is pretty touching at times and I imagine the interaction between Howller and his granddaughter must have been inspired by similar interactions between Farmer and his children or grandchildren. Also for Pulp Fans, Doc Savage, the Shadow and Margo Lane make cameos towards the end of the story.
The next section is titled Wold Newton Pre-History: The Khokarsa Series. It contains one novella co-written by Philip Jose Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey. It is set in the Empire of Khokarsa, in Tarzan's ancient Africa circa 10,000 BC in a lost bronze age. If you have read Hadon of Ancient Opar (Khokarsa Series #1 - Wold Newton Prehistory) (Wold Newton Novels) you are familiar with the bronze giant Kwasin, wielder of the Ax of Victory.
Kwasin, an exile and enemy of the King of Khokarsa encounters a priestess of the Snake Totem in the ruins of an ancient city. He spends the night with her and accompanies her back to her village. There she gives him the ultimatum, help her sister, a priestess in a neighboring village save it from the King's men or she will turn Kwasin in to the village's priests (followers of the Sun God). In turn for helping her sister, she states she will put in a good word with the queen of Dythbeth to absolve him of his past crime (supposedly ravishing a temple priestess).
Kwasin reluctantly agrees and the story really starts to pick up from there. This is a classic adventure story in the vein of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard, but with modern sensibilities and style. Carey does a great job building on Farmer's previous world building of Khokarsa and its people. This short story, aptly named deals with the Bear God, which is fitting as Kwasin is of the Bear Totem tribe. Bears play a big part of the story and the Bear God himself has ties to much more than just this story alone.
This story reminds me a lot of classic Conan stories, where the chronology doesn't really matter. Conan comes across a situation and he deals with it in his own way. In the case of this story, I believe Kwasin out-Conan's Conan, as he appears to undergo quite a bit of character development from the events of this story. Especially in coming to terms with the gods. If you enjoyed this, I recommend trying to find a copy of the Gods of Opar. It is an omnibus that came out from Subterranean Press, but is now out of print. It contains the first two Opar books (Hadon of Ancient Opar (Khokarsa Series #1 - Wold Newton Prehistory) (Wold Newton Novels) and Flight to Opar) as well as the Song of Kwasin by Christopher Paul Carey and Philp Jose Farmer. The Song of Kwasin is the conclusion to the Khokarsa trilogy and at the moment is only available in the limited edition omnibus. Kwasin and the Bear God takes place between the first and second chapters of the Song of Kwasin. I'm a big fan of the Khokarsa Series and hope to see even more in the future.
The next section is titled Wold Newton Pre-History John Gribardsun and Times Last Gift
The first story in this section is "Into Time's Abyss" by John Allen Small.
It is hard to talk too much about "Into Times Abyss", without giving away the ending to Time's Last Gift (Wold Newton Prehistory) but I'll try. This story branches from the main Wold Newton Universe/Timeline, as it involves the same time traveling team from Time's Last Gift (Wold Newton Prehistory), but they are actually the second versions of these characters who go back in time. A unique time loop occurs in the original novel, that makes Gribardsun, the main character believe that the second team would appear on a parallel world.
Small uses this as a launching point for his short story and nails how these characters would act when put in this type of situation. Especially the tension between Gribardsun and the Drummond's, a husband and wife (who has taken a little too much of a liking to Gribardsun in the eyes of her husband). Gribardsun is the star of this story, and as in Time's Last Gift (Wold Newton Prehistory) there are some hints at his true identity. He really shines in this story, showing his ability as a natural leader, as they encounter the native people of this time.
A nice twist occurs at this moment, while "Times Last Gift" was a bit of a Lost World story set in Earth's past, "Into Time's Abyss" is more like a Sword & Planet story set on the past of a parallel Earth. Gribardsun and his team encounter a race of aliens, who seem to be a cross between human and lions, they ride mounts that are a cross between wolves and bears. They are giants and incredibly strong.
Gribardsun, never one to back down from bullies throws in with the humans and its a lot of great action from there. The only downside to this short story is that it could be the first chapter of a book, its THAT good. As a reader I am begging Small to continue this, I want to know where and when the story takes place, as well as more background on the aliens. Top notch story, start to finish, just waiting for more.
The second story in this section is " The Last of the Guaranys" by Ocatvio Aragao and Carolos Orsi. This is tale of John Gribardsun in the main Wold Newton timeline. It takes place in the 17th Century in South America as he inspects the sight of a natural nuclear reactor and encounters the various people inhabiting the area. This is a pretty cool and unique story. It reminds me of 1930's science fiction pulps where the science was very well researched and integrated into the story. Of course since Gribardsun is involved it also brings the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philp Jose Farmer to mind. I especially like how the authors delve into Gribardsun's soul in terms of religion. That deep down, even under all of his knowledge and education he still carries a respect for the primordial hunter God that he believed in when growing up in the jungle. A really nice touch. I also liked how they had Gribardsun go into the Johnny Weissmuller broken English when he was playing his part as Peri, the titular Last of the Guaranys in order to woe a Portuguese girl. Like Small's "Into Time's Abyss", Aragao and Orsi have contributed a great addition to the John Gribardsun mythos.
The last section of the book is titled Wold Newton Origins/Secrets of the Nine. It contains a novella called "The Wild Huntsman" by Win Scott Eckert. As the section title implies this novella takes you back to the day the meteor crashed in Wold Newton England in 1795. Through the eyes of John Gribardsun you are able to view all of the major players who become the founding members of the Wold Newton Family. You also see Gribardsun's primary antagonist and how his past relationship with Gribardsun has an effect on the entire Wold Newton Universe, as well as the Secrets of the Nine alternate universe (which features Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban). I would say if you haven't read a Wold Newton story, start with Time's Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer. Then read this. The Wild Huntsman stands on its own as an entertaining and informative novella that covers various aspects of the Wold Newton Universe. From here you can let your reading branch out in various directions depending on what aspects of the Wold Newton Universe you are interested in. Whether it is the Tarzan, Doc Savage, Phileas Fogg, Victorian Heroes, French Heroes, etc.
Overall I have to rate this collection a 5 out of 5. I would even like to give this a 6, it's that good. The quality of the stories as well as the selection is second to none. I really hope Titan will continue to at least put out further Wold Newton Anthologies. A collection this great, this diverse, definitely deserves a follow up.
If you have ever been curious to see what Wold Newton is all about, now is the time. I would recommend buying Time's Last Gift (Wold Newton Prehistory) by Philip Jose Farmer, the new edition from Titan Books and this Tales of the Wold Newton Universe to start you on your journey.
"The Problem of the Sore Bridge - Among Others" is presented as a story written by Harry "Bunny" Manders, sidekick and amanuensis of E.W. Hornung's gentleman thief A.J. Raffles, and edited by Farmer. In this tale, Manders reveals how Raffles solved the three mysteries that were recorded as having stumped Sherlock Holmes in "The Problem of Thor Bridge." Farmer's solution is typically unique, and shows his roots in science fiction. Having read the original stories, I feel he captures Raffles and Bunny's "voices" perfectly. There are also references to Holmes and Raffles being distant cousins, a genealogical connection he first revealed in TARZAN ALIVE.
"A Scarletin Study," allegedly written by Jonathan Swift Somers III and again edited by Farmer, features the first meeting, and case together, of talking dog detective Ralph von Wau Wau and Dr. Johann H. Weisstein. Farmer treats von Wau Wau as a real person (or rather canine) in DOC SAVAGE. Once again, Farmer takes an audacious concept and runs with it, making the story both exciting and funny at the same time. As one can infer from the title, this tale owes a debt to Holmes' first appearance, A STUDY IN SCARLET, particularly in its opening scenes.
"The Doge Whose Barque Was Worsen Than His Bight" is another story presented as by Somers, and featuring von Wau Wau and Weisstein. Here, they are teamed with Wold Newton Family member Cordwainer Bird, nephew of the Shadow, the Spider, and G-8, and the main character of Harlan Ellison's "The New York Review of Bird." Once again, Farmer manages to tell a story that is equal parts thrilling and hilarious, and Bird is a welcome addition to the proceedings.
"Skinburn," written by Farmer under his own name, features private investigator Kent Lane, whose parentage should be obvious to those who have read the works of Walter Gibson. Besides his name, the fact that he wears a ring with a fire opal set into it is a pretty prominent clue. The solution to the mystery of this story is just as off-the-wall (yet great) as that of "Sore Bridge."
"The Freshman" is a tale utilizing H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, in which 60-year-old Roderick Desmond enrolls at Miskatonic University. Farmer tells a tale that, while utilizing Lovecraft's concepts, stands more than adequately on its own merits. There are two references to works featuring Wold Newton Family members in this story. One, noted in the introduction to the tale, is that a Miskatonic student named Bukawai is stated to be from a long line of African witch doctors, implying that he is a descendant of the Bukawai that appears in Burroughs' JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN. The other, which I realized while reading the story in this edition, and told Eckert and Carey about on the Facebook Wold Newton group, is that Desmond identifies another student's ancestor as a resident of the hamlet of Tredannick Wollas, near Poldhu Bay, from Watson and Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot."
"After King Kong Fell" features an older gentleman named Tim Howller telling his granddaughter the story of how he witnessed the aftermath of the giant ape's plummeting from the top of the Empire State Building. His story mentions a powerful-looking golden-eyed man and his five companions as arriving on the scene, as well as the presence of a hawk-faced man with strange eyes who was accompanied by a beautiful woman named Margo. Farmer's tale functions marvelously as both a work of fiction and a commentary on the film and character of King Kong. It is worth noting that Howller was the same age in 1931 as Farmer himself, and that both were Peoria natives. Additionally, Howller is featured in another Farmer story, "The Face That Launched a Thousand Eggs," which the author has described as autobiographical. Draw your own conclusions from that.
"Kwasin and the Bear God" is co-written by Farmer and Carey, and takes place between chapters of THE SONG OF KWASIN, the third book included in the omnibus GODS OF OPAR, which collects Farmer's trilogy of novels featuring the same city later explored by the Jungle Lord. Kwasin is the cousin of Hadon, the hero of the first two books (HADON OF ANCIENT OPAR and FLIGHT TO OPAR), and the hero of GODS OF OPAR, which Farmer began writing in the 1970s, but was finished by Carey in recent years, and only published as part of the omnibus after Farmer's passing. I've always felt that Kwasin was a more entertaining character than the admittedly well-written Hadon, who is more of a traditional hero than his cousin, and telling the story from his point of view makes the story even more enjoyable. Kwasin is a giant, a rogue, and just as skilled at combat as Hadon, if not more.
"Into Time's Abyss" by John Allen Small extrapolates its plot from a passage in Farmer's time-travel novel TIME'S LAST GIFT. Sharp-eyed readers of Farmer's novel have identified one of the protagonists, the long-lived John Gribardsun, as a nom de guerre for a member of the Wold Newton Family who also plays a significant part in the Opar books. Small captures the personalities of Farmer's characters as well as Farmer did those of the writers whose characters he used in his own Wold Newton fiction, and offers an entertaining parallel plot to Farmer's book.
"The Last of the Guaranys" by Octavio Aragao and Carlos Orsi blends John Gribardsun into the events of Brazilian author Jose de Alencar's 1857 novel O GUARANI. While I have never read de Alencar's book, I have read TIME'S LAST GIFT, and Aragao and Orsi are spot-on in their characterization of this enigmatic individual. I am now curious to see if any English translations of O GUARANI have been published; if so, I will definitely give it a look.
Eckert rounds out the book with my personal favorite tale, "The Wild Huntsman." Eckert's story is a tour-de-force drawing together the Wold Newton stories and Farmer's Secrets of the Nine trilogy, whose protagonists, Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban, are counterparts to the Jungle Lord and the Man of Bronze, respectively. Eckert's tale at long last explains why so many people were traveling through a remote place like Wold Newton at just the right time to be affected (as were their descendants) by the meteor's radiation. Eckert's story, which as with the previous two features Gribardsun prominently, ties in with a number of other stories he's written, as those who have devotedly read his previous work (like myself) will realize. Like Farmer, Eckert's work forms a rich tapestry that can be enjoyed individually, but even more so when read together.
This collection of tales about my favorite fictional universe is a must-have. Farmer was an innovator in the science fiction genre, and the Wold Newton Family is one of his best creations. All good Farmer, pulp, and Wold Newton fans should pick up this magnificent collection As long as more people read Farmer's work, and write new tales set in his mythos, the Wold Newton Universe should thrive for a long time to come!
In this book several of PJF's works in pulp have been placed in one place for the first time. The stories pf Farmer's that were true favorites of mine were SKINBURN (a tale of a certain pulp hero's son), AFTER KING KONG FELL, and THE PROBLEM OF THE SORE BRIDGE-AMONG OTHERS.
But the book is not merely limited the great man's work. Several modern writers have joined in this book and produced stories that truly amazed me and had me hoping for more. KWASIN AND THE BEAR GOD by Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey, INTO TIME'S ABYSS by John Allen Small and THE WILD HUNTSMAN by Win Scott Eckert were standouts in this book and each was worthy of their own books.
A truly great book, I hope to see more Tales of the Wold Newton Universe in the future!
When you read a story by PJF you are always in for a feast that will delight you, make you laugh and make your mind think in ways it never has before.
Added in are stories written by fan's of his, who over the years became friends with the man himself, and carry on his ideas and concepts.
Love Pulp Heroes?
Love Mind blowing adventures?
Buy and read this BOOK!