PHILEAS FOGG AND THE WAR OF SHADOWS by Josh Reynolds, Meteor House, h/c, $25.00/p/b, $15.00, Website
Reviewed by David Brzeski
I read the first few paragraphs, smiled and made myself comfortable, confident that I was in for a treat. I’ve enjoyed several other works by Joshua M. Reynolds, who is, in my opinion, one of the better authors involved in what has been dubbed “New Pulp”. I’m also a huge fan of the writing of Philip José Farmer, and have enjoyed the various additions to, and expansions of, his work which Meteor House have published, so the combination of the two was always going to excite me.
Everyone will recognise the name, Phileas Fogg from Jules Verne’s classic ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’. Most readers of this review will, I suspect, also be aware that Philip José Farmer wrote of the untold events that were the basis of that novel in ‘The Other Log of Phileas Fogg’—recently reissued by Titan Books, in a new edition with various bonus features.
‘The War of Shadows’ is the first in a proposed series of sequels to Famer’s book. Like ‘The Other Log of Phileas Fogg’, it’s set firmly in Farmer’s Wold Newton universe with characters from the works of various authors, other than Verne, playing both major parts in the story, or simply mentioned in passing.
The introduction, in the form of a letter, deals with the passing into the hands of “Patricia” certain documents, written in a strange cypher, in the hope that she will be able to translate them. For more on Patricia, I suggest checking out Win Scott Eckert’s Pat Wildman series of novellas, also from Meteor House. The main story is, of course, based on Ms. Wildman’s translation of these documents.
The main villain from Farmer’s book, another well known Jules Verne character, is back, but this time using a different name—one readers will recognise from the time when he clashed with a certain ‘Great Detective’. An initial battle turns into an unlikely alliance as Fogg becomes embroiled in an attempt to put a stop to the machinations of a powerful third party, who is targeting people of both Eridanean and Capellean ancestry (If that means nothing to you, please get yourself a copy of the aforementioned Philip José Farmer novel.)
I won’t say any more about the plot, or who the various protagonists are for fear of spoilers.
It’s a classic pulp adventure story, fast paced and engrossing. I’ve always enjoyed Josh Reynolds’ writing, and this is no exception. He effortlessly captures the feel of the period in his prose. He skillfully weaves in various references to other characters within the Wold Newton universe, without ever letting it hamper the flow of the story. It works perfectly well as a stand-alone novella, but I would certainly recommend reading ‘The Other Log of Phileas Fogg’ first.
If I have any complaint it’s that the book ends far too soon. Thankfully, there are hints in the text which suggest where further sequels may take us. Hopefully, they won’t be too long in coming.
For their part, Meteor House are one of the best independent publishers currently active, in terms of excellent editing and general high quality of product.
There will, I’m sure, eventually be an ebook edition. For now, publication is limited to 125 signed hardcovers and 125 signed paperbacks, which will very likely sell out fairly quickly.