By Jason Aiken.
One of the highlights of PulpFest 2014/FarmerCon IX was the release of Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows by Josh Reynolds from Meteor House Press. This novella is a follow up to Philip Jose Farmer’s The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, which revealed the hidden truth behind Fogg’s thrilling adventures chronicled by Jules Verne in Around the World in Eighty Days.
While reading Farmer’s original tale is recommended, it is not required in order to enjoy this new tale of action and adventure set in Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe. The opening chapters of The War of Shadows bring new readers up to speed organically and they are ready to join Fogg as he is forced out of retirement and into another adventure at the behest of his one-time adversary, Captain Nemo.
Rather than solely focusing on the interstellar rivalry between the Eridaneans (who Fogg was an agent/member of) and the Capellans (who Captain Nemo was an agent/member of), the new book hints at additional alien races that have been present on Earth long before the Eridaneans and Capellans. Although the information provided is scarce, I think it is safe to say these ancient alien races will be quite familiar to Cthulhu Mythos fans. I am hoping these ancient aliens take center stage in future tales, rather than just being alluded to. I do suspect this is just the first installment of continued Phileas Fogg adventures though and we will see him delve deeper into the mythos at a future date.
Besides Cthulhu Mythos references, subtle nods to other horror and weird fiction writers are present as well. Also, with the adventure taking place primarily between England and Paris, it is no surprise that French Pulp characters play a part in the story. Speaking of Paris, a nod to Lovecraft’s The Music of Erich Zann popped up too.
I really enjoyed this fast paced tale and have been looking forward to it since it was announced. Having read Reynolds’ The Bells of Northam in Lovecraft eZine Issue 27, I knew he had the right style to tell a Wold Newton Universe tale. His blending of elements from Lovecraft, Blackwood, historical figures and his own creations in the aforementioned Lovecraft eZine story seemed promising to me. After having read The War of Shadows I am happy to report he has succeeded with flying colors. He did a great job managing the crossover material, while staying true to Farmer’s original concepts. Not to mention telling a very suspenseful tale with a satisfying conclusion, that at the same time leaves open a world of potential future story-lines.
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is often overlooked when speaking about Wold Newton tent-pole titles. Farmer’s Tarzan: Alive and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life always seem to dominate the conversation and rightfully so, they cover a much wider base of the Wold Newton Family tree. However, it is in The Other Log of Phileas Fogg where the more weird, the more alien branches of the Wold Newton Family tree are chronicled. Hence, in my eyes Fogg is the logical candidate to come into contact with and investigate the Cthulhu Mythos elements within the Wold Newton Universe. Fogg isn’t quite there yet, but the groundwork has been laid and I will be thrilled to see him do so in future adventures.
I think fans of Philip Jose Farmer, crossover fiction, Science Fiction, French Pulp Fiction, and the Cthulhu Mythos will really enjoy this novella. It is still available from Meteor House Press in a limited softcover and hardcover edition of only 125 copies each. It can be ordered here: Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows.
Jason Aiken is the producer and host of Pulp Crazy.