Titan Books, out now
What really happened when Fogg went round the world in eighty days…
Titan’s major reprint series of Philip Jose Farmer novels kicks off with this unusual tale which purports to tell the real story of Fogg’s journey – how it was really all connected to a millennia-old war between two alien civilisations, whose representatives were on Earth. How Fogg’s problems were exacerbated by the presence of a mysterious N___ (aka Captain Nemo), and how that person in reality is Sherlock Holmes’ oldest foe, James Moriarty.
Confused? It’s all about the Wold Newton Universe: all the great literary heroes are interconnected, and linked to a meteor strike that took place in 1795. So Nemo can disappear after a time and become Moriarty; Tarzan and Doc Savage are real. James Bond is connected to the Scarlet Pimpernel – and so on. If you can buy into this conceit, then the Wold Newton books will work for you. If you think it’s the ultimate in fanwank, then steer well clear!
This early book by Farmer isn’t his strongest, partly because the omniscient narrator comes across as a bit of a smug git (we know what really happened, and poor stupid Verne didn’t). It takes apart some of the plotholes of the Verne novel – of which, to be fair, there are plenty – but then it adds its own in… for example, having Fogg read a newspaper on the day he arrives back in London and then not noticing the date, or references to days being wrong.
There are two essays in the back, one of which makes a case for Nemo being Moriarty, and basically trashing Verne’s Mysterious Island into the bargain; the other suggesting that Phileas Fogg and Philip Jose Farmer may share more than just initials. They’re not essential but demonstrate that it’s not just Doctor Who and Star Trek that attract their share of hyperattentive fans!
Verdict: Don’t let the style put you off some of the later Wold Newton novels coming – this sets the scene for some very intriguing encounters. 6/10