Philip Jose Farmer
What They Say
When a powerful teleportation device falls into enemy hands, secret agent Fogg must embark on a daring global dash to save his once-immortal race from certain annihilation. Fogg encounters new dangers at every turn, before confronting his deadly rival: the infamous Captain Nemo, also known as Jame Moriarty.
The true story behind Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days is revealed in this thrilling glimpse into the secret notebook of the mysterious Phileas Fogg.
As I’ve told my students, there’s no way to measure creativity. There’s no metric by which I could conclusively say that author A is more creative than author B. It’s subjective. Now, that being said, Philip Jose Farmer is one of the most creative and fun science fiction authors of the 20th century. Named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, his best known works are the Riverworld novels where various people from Earth’s history are brought to an alien planet for mysterious reasons. However, his most enduring stories are the Wold Newton tales where he plays with various fictional characters such as Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, and Phileas Fogg.
The central idea behind the Wold Newton universe is that a meteorite that struck the town of Wold Newton in Yorkshire England in 1795 was radioactive and caused genetic mutations in a small of group of individuals. This mutation was passed down to their offspring and subsequent generations, granting them incredible intelligence and strength. The stories within this setting are divided between characters related to the people affected by the meteror strike (the Wold Newton Family) and characters unrelated to those people but existing in the same universe. Phileas Fogg falls into the latter category.
Phileas Fogg comes from Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in 80 Days. In the novel he bets the members of his gentlemen’s club that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. During his journey he experiences many adventures, but the most harrowing ones were unknown to Verne because of their clandestine nature. It wasn’t until Fogg’s secret journal was uncovered and later translated by Farmer that the real purpose of his journey was revealed. Besides being an English gentleman, Fogg was also an Eridanean—an adopted member of an alien race that sought to shape humanity’s future for the better. Standing in opposition to them are the Cappeleans, a rival race of aliens that also seek to shape humanity’s future, but for less-than-altruistic purposes. One of the most important technologies possessed by both the Eridaneans and Cappeleans is a teleportation device known as the distorter. According to his log, the race around the world is just a pretense for Fogg to capture a rogue Cappelean’s distorer. This is a difficult enough task, but it is complicated further by the presence of the brilliant and deadly Captain Nemo—also known as James Moriarty.
Farmer’s writing style in this novel reminds me quite a bit of the works of Jorge Luis Borges. Although Borges’ work falls into the Magic Realist genre, many of his best stories were written as academic, historical documents. He wrote so well in this style, in fact, that he often fooled literary and historical scholars into believing that what he wrote was fact, not fiction. Farmer employs a similar style here to mixed results. It took me a while to grow accustomed to it, because it often came off as rather dry and stilted, but by the time Fogg embarks on his journey the narrative picks up to the point where the eccentricities of the style were no longer noticeable. By novel’s end the impact of this style becomes clear. This is a secret history of our world, and the choice of writing this like a historical text instead of a straight narrative fits the story and makes it stand out from other stories where authors appropriate fictional characters from the works of others.
In addition to Fogg’s story, this volume also includes a fictional academic essay by Farmer detailing how Captain Nemo was in fact Professor Moriarty, and an introduction and chronology of the Wold Newton universe by Farmer scholar Win Scott Eckart. Farmer’s essay is a nice extra that further cements the feeling that we are reading a secret history of the world and not a work of fiction, and the items from Eckart serve to make this book a solid entry-point for those interested in reading more Farmer.
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is a fun, creative, imaginative science fiction fantasy that plays with the plot and character of one of Jules Verne’s most beloved novels, Around the World in 80 Days. While the narrative style takes a little getting used to, it comes together nicely with the story in a way that makes this a joy to read.
Content Grade: A
Published By: Titan Books
Release Date: May 8, 2012