When Hal Yarrow, a member of the Big Brother society of the future, dares to think "unrealistically" and falls in love with a human-looking insect, his love proves to be both his salvation and undoing. A fine science fiction tale recommended for older teenagers.
This review is taken from Piers Anthony's column, Off The Deep End, which he wrote about Essex House and five of their novels. A Feast Unknown by Philip Jose Farmer. This is a breath of fresh air, after Evil Companions. But it has its own intrigues. The story has similarities to Farmer's DOUBLEDAY item, Lord Tyger, and both, by no coincidence, resemble Tarzan. Lord Tyger might be a Tarzan juvenile—except that children are never permitted to be portrayed as they are, in their natural insensitivity and sexuality, lest this corrupt adult notions. Funny world we struggle in, no? Strangely there is no scene in the ESSEX book that quite matches one in the DOUBLEDAY, in which the heroine gets raped by half a beating crocodile heart. You just never can tell.
A Feast Unknown is a substantial fantasy/SF story, with the jungle-man protagonist reacting to assorted crisis somewhat more realistically than the original Tarzan might. But he does have a sexual hangup: it is violence that makes him ejaculate, not pulchritude. "As the knife sank into the flesh, I spurted over his belly and the knife."
This is a pretty good story, that picked up a Nebula nomination or two and deserved them. But for me there was one major drawback. In the latter portion we are treated to an extended automobile chase/battle. I'm sure it was well done, but somehow it turned me off, and I suspect it offered scant pickings for the hard-core sex reader. Maybe it's that a chase is one way to get from point A to B, and too much chase dilutes the content.
The Postscript this time is by Theodore Sturgeon. "Farmer," he says, "...makes it clear that unlimited violence coupled with unlimited sex is an unlimited absurdity." And I won't argue there. It is violence which makes our society ejaculate, while genuine pleasures are suppressed. (Piers Anthony)
Ad-lib: It may surprise P. Shuyler Miller to learn that Farmer's book did not, as he clairvoyantly foretold in his November '69 Reference Library column, "drive the Burroughs Bibliophiles up the wall." At least, not this Bibliophile! Admittedly, I was a bit perturbed at first, then I realized that Farmer's Lord Grandrith was no more Greystoke than JW was Tarz and that Caliban was no moreDoc Savage than Doc Savage was the man from Glad! After that, I had a lot of fun reading the book. Frankly, I haven't enjoyed so many belly-hurting laughs in ages...and I'll bet Phil had just as much fun writing it. Maybe after fifty and some years of actually living life, I've learned the necessities and nastiness of it all. Maybe my stomach is tough after years of eating in restaurants, cook houses, grease joints, mess halls, and out of army messkits and various and sundry tins and boxes. I recall the billions of flies on Corregidor and wonder how many I unwittingly consumed along with my C ration. I recall the mutilated bodies of comrades which we found...because the Nips were hungry! What else is in that beef, or pork, or hamburger you had for lunch? Haven't you wondered why your canine friend's breath is so hot and fetid? Or what the acute alcoholic drinks when he is broke and thirsty? How does your garden grow? Is it all so very repugnant? When was the last time you swallowed your pride. Whatever else Phil's book is, as Al sezs, it's honest, but the casual reader will think it is not dirty enough. Any Burroughs Bibliophile who does not read it and place it in his library--along with the forthcoming sequels from Ace--is chicken....!
This review is taken from Piers Anthony's column, Off The Deep End, which he wrote about Essex House and five of their novels. Blown by Philip Jose Farmer. This is listed as the sequel to The Image of the Beast, a novel I have not seen. The subtitle is Sketches Among the Ruins of My Mind—and I presume that is Farmer's original title, certainly a far more evocative concept. My rule of thumb is that only the editors with the worst taste in titling insist on changing the author's title, with the result you see here.
((Editors Note: Brian Kirby, editor of Essex House, told me Blown was Farmer's own title for the book. I do not believe Brian changed any of Phil's titles.))
Farmer's style here, to my surprise, is quite unlike that of Lovely or of his own novelette "Riders of the Purple Wage." The prose of Blown is lucid, simple, linear—in fact, pedestrian. Since I know how Farmer can sparkle when he chooses, I am amazed to discover a determinedly dull finish here. It is as though he wants nothing to detract from his story—yet the story, apart from certain remarkable exceptions, is routine science fiction.
Let's skip the routine and concentrate on those exceptions. There is of course the sexula element. The book works carefully into a thoroughly compelling sexual episode. It begins voyeuristically: Herald Childe (others have remarked on the obviously literary symbolism of the name) watches the beautiful Vivienne anesthetize a mark and insert his penis into her anus. Her vagina then opens and a tiny human head emerges, mounted on a snakelike torso. This head glides down and enters the marks anus. Etc. I don't believe I need to point out the diverse elements of this concept; few if any beside Farmer seem able to achieve such effects. Some critics condemn him, some praise him; I doubt many are indifferent.
Ted White has remarked on the confusion of those who fail to differentiate good and bad from type, and condemn a good story because it is of a type the critic doesn't happen to like. I suspect many critics have done this with Farmer's sexual concepts, including white himself: revolted by the aberated eroticism, they believe the writing is bad. I suggest the opposite: this is good writing, for it moves the reader, and plants an image in his mind he can not expunge. Good writing is not at all the same as nice writing.
Another element is Forrest J. Ackerman. No, this is no coincidence of names. I don't know Forry, but I'm prepared to believe this is the Forry. Yet he is so determinedly mundane it's a crime. He resides in the 800 block of Sherbourne Drive. He has a left a party to get out a comic magazine. He has found a rare picture to be missing from his home, and now he is standing in the rain outside the house of Heepish, who has stolen the item, and he's mad. Good God, the contrast with the preceding episode is so sharp it's shocking; it's as though pages from another book have been spliced in. Yet Forry amounts to a co-protagonist with Herald. The two finally interact and consummate the story.
I don't know what Farmer is doing here, but I certainly can't ignore it. I'm certain he is broadening the field in ways not purely sexual, and that must be good. More on that too, anon. (Piers Anthony)
This is the first in a projected series of science fiction novels about the Riverworld. Heaven, purgatory or hell, perhaps all three, the Riverworld contains the resurrected remains of all beings who dwelt on earth from the beginning of time till 2000 A.D. The chief character in the book is the famous Victorian adventurer, Richard Burton. Accompanied by a changing cast of characters, including Herman Goering and Alice Hargreaves (the model for Alice in Wonderland), Burton explores the Riverworld and begins what will evidently be a series of encounters with the Ethicals, who control the existence of people in the Riverworld. Much of the book is intriguing and ingenious; occasionally there are minor plot confusions, but perhaps these will clear up with the succeeding volumes. (Judy Faria)
"Here's to the world we love, whatever she may be."
With these words the crew of the H. G. Wells I begins an excitung journey in the world of 12,000 B.C.--the Magdalenian period (a period representing the highest paleolithic culture in Europe).
From the beginning the other members of the crew--Robert von Billman, Drummond Silverstein and his wife Rachel--suspect something out of the oridinary about the leader of the expedition, John Gribarsun...an unhumanness. His charisma or animal magnetism is so powerful that he is obeyed whether one wishes to or not. He adapts to the perid in a manner which is most uncanny. It is almost as if he belongs.
This is, on the surface, a tale of time travel. It is also the story of the decaying marriage (triggered by mental stress due to unknown factors of time travel?) of Drummond and Rachel Silverstein. But, more than this, it is the story of John Gribardsun, a man overcome by the encroachment of civilization in the year 2070 A.D., and of his sadness that there is no longer any fresh air, that the vast wilderness areas have vanished and wildlife (that hasn't become extinct!) is found to exist only in zoos. John Gribardsun--a man so discontent with the world of the future that he spends his fortune encouraging and participating in the research and preparation for the time trip.
To those who have read TARZAN ALIVE and noted that John Clayton's earliest ancestor was a man called Graegbeardssunu, it is quite evident that John Gribardsun is Tarzan of the Apes! But if this isn't enough, Phil Farmer has generously sprinkled enough clues throughout the narrative that even the dullest reader will soon grasp his identity. To the Burroughs fan the book is a joy! One can hardly contain himself every time a clue is dropped ("Ah, hah!"). You begin to lose track of the story just looking for clues--which makes a second reading a must.
Phil does two things in this novel which are paradoxical to the Burroughs fan. he never explains what has happened to Jane and states that Gribardsun/Tarzan was born in 1872. Does Phil secretly go along with the theory that Jane was murdered by the Germans in TARZAN THE UNTAMED? If so, who is the woman that appers in later books in the series? One does tend to wonder why, suddenly, Jane appears so able and self-confident in the jungle, especially when in the earlier books she is so out of place in the jungle and is quite set on weaning Tarzan away from his beloved element.
Was burroughs actually forced by an irate readership to resurrect Jane in the series even though she was dead? There is evidence to support this theory. Edgar Rice Burroughs was primarily a story-teller and not particularly concerned with absolute facts. He was interested in earning a living and when he saw that the readers wanted Jane--he gave her to them in a literary sense.
Did Tarzan take La of Opar as his mate, tutoring her in the ways of civilization? After all, La was deeply in love with the ape-man. And, although first loves are often the fondest, Tarzan was acutely aware of his need for a mate (see "Tarzan's First Love" in JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN). So it would be quite natural for him to turn to La. She was of the jungle--therefore quite compatible with Tarzan, and would not try to take him from his beloved surroundings. This still doesn't explain the absence of Gribardsun's mate. Maybe being immortal causes one's attitude (humanness) to change and Tarzan and his mate agreed to go their own ways when it suited them.*
What of the 1872 birthdate? Did Phil originally go along with the theory for this date--then have to revise his thinking after seeing the diary giving account of Tarzan's birth? However, assuming this book is fantasy, one could just overlook these two points. The figure of Gribardsun is physically and physiologically Tarzan, but the take is in the same vein as Burroughs' TARZAN AND THE ANT MEN and TARZAN AT THE EARTH'S CORE. Perhaps Phil conceived the time travel idea from a remark made o him by Greystoke.
This book is the "springboard" of a new series by Phil on the history of ancient Opar, the first being HADON OF ANCIENT OPAR. Hopefully John Gribardsun, as the series progresses, will reveal the answers to some of the questions.
There are some who have called Phil's Tarzan books 'pastiches'. But a pastiche is a literary composition imitating or caricaturing previous writings. One thing Phil does not try to do is imitate Burroughs. He has expanded and elaborated the concepts, rather than remaining in the confines of Burroughs' concept. Phil's work is uniquely his own. (Robert Barret) *Perhaps a clue lies on page 185. When hearing of Laminak's death, he says, "I can't be bound to one place or to one person."--DPO
The fascination exerted by accounts of real or imaginary feral man is fueled in a collection of popular writings.
From the May 28th issue of The UCLA Daily Bruin:
Letters to the Editor: Trout Fishing
In your book review section for May 20th, Mr. Steve Ainsworth states that "Venus on the Half-Shell (by Kilgore Trout) is a (Kurt) Vonnegut creation." Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Ainsworth, but t'aint so. It was recently revealed at the University Extension science fiction class that Mr. Philip Jose Farmer is really Kilgore Trout. Mr. Farmer, a brilliant writer in his own right and a great admirer of Vonnegut's work, conceived the idea of actually taking the description of one of Trout's books provided by Vonnegut and writing the novel.
With Vonnegut's approval Farmer wrote Venus on the Half-Shell, which was then published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Due to an unfortunate series of events, Vonnegut later withdrew his permission for the use of the Trout name, so no more Kilgore Trout books will be appearing.
However, it was revealed that Simon Wagstaff, the hero of Venus, has his own favorite science fiction writer, Jonathon Swift Somers III. By a strange coincidence, A Scarletin Study, by Mr. Somers, was recently published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In addition, Ralph von Wau Wau, hero of A Scarletin Study has his own favorite science fiction writer, whose work will soon be published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction...
I am indebted for this information to Mr. Farmer himself, who appeared on a panel for the May 13 session of Ten Tuesdays Down a Rabbit Hole, the University Extension science fiction class. Chalk up another one, Mr. Farmer.
Mayer A. Brenner
We've been had. It seems Venus on the Half-Shell, reviewed last week in this section, was in reality not written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., but by Phillip Jose Farmer, author of four science fiction novels. Farmer, with Vonnegut's permission, wrote under the pseudonym, "Kilgore Trout," one of the principle characters in Vonnegut's latest book, Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut subsequently revoked that permission.
It was a good hoax. It worked. Beyond the (now) obvious mimicking of Vonnegut's style and themes, Farmer got help in the form of some very deceptive promotional material. Furthermore, it seems that the book's sales are dependant on upon the association of "Kilgore Trout" with Kurt Vonnegut.
But not wishing to spoil a good joke (even one at our own expense), we'd like to restate our opinion that Venus on the Half-Shell, in its own right, is well worth reading. Reviewer Steve Ainsworth, last seen hitchhiking north on the Ventura Freeway in search of a large rock to crawl under, maintains it's one of the best books Farmer ever wrote. By the way, hemlock tastes lousy.
(I usually don't comment on reviews and I can even tolerate their misspelling Philip, but to say that he is the "author of four science fiction books" is a bit much. By the time VENUS came out he had published; one mainstream novel, one anthology, two biographies, five short story collections, thirty science fiction novels and won three Hugo awards! And they make it sound like no one had ever heard of Farmer, when he had been a guest speaker on campus the week before. - Mike)
A SECOND OPINION If there is a single thread running through much of Farmer's work, it is the theme or character of the Trickster. Here Farmer the Trickster gives us Jesus, the most subtle in a long line of Tricksters, and no one's beliefs will remain quite the same because of him. Farmer is at his narrative and philosophical best in a novel which is destined for a Hugo Award. Highly recommended. (George H. Scheetz)
Farmer winds up his complex Riverworld series with a metaphysical slant in this fourth volume that, like its predecessors, is filled with action and drama. For mature readers already caught up in the series. (Sally Estes)
Hank Stover to Glinda
the Sorceress in Philip Jose' Farmer's
A Barnstormer in Oz
The Intergalactic Reporter, a publication of The New Jersey Science Fiction Society
The Oz books are recalled with affection by many of today's noted science fiction and fantasy authors. Many author biographies say something like "I began by reading all the Oz books." Two years ago Robert E. Heinlein included a pleasant little visit to Oz in his otherwise undistinguished Number of the Beast.
Now Philip Jose' Farmer, who has recently written books further exploring Burroughs' Mars and Opar, tells about an adult, science-fiction version of Baum's wonder- land. According to Farmer, Dorothy and her visit to Oz were real," she was hurled by that cyclone across an interdimensional gap to another continuum, and returned to tell Baum her adventure. But all the other Oz books were "fictions," Dorothy never went back, instead grew up to marry wealthy New Yorker "Linc" Stover, (probably Dink Stover, hero of Owen Johnson's turn-of-the-century novels The Varmint and Stover at Yale) and in due course they had a son, Hank, who has served as a combat pilot in World War I and has become a "barnstormer" flier after- wards.
In 1923, in the skies over Kansas, Hank Stover flies his "Jenny" biplane through a strange green cloud, across the interdimensional gap to the Quadling Country of Oz. Soon he encounters not only the little people and talking animals of Baum's Wizard, but also such "adult" aspects (which Stover says his mother overlooked or Baum deliberately omitted) as liquor, tobacco and sex. Hank becomes infatuated with Glinda the Good Witch, ruler of the Quadlings, and aids her in an all-out war against a wicked Gillikin witch, Erakna, and also against an at- tempted interdimensional invasion by the United States Army. He mounts machine guns on his biplane, Jenny, she not surprisingly learns to talk, and they swoop around blasting nasty hawks, eagles and winged monkeys. After two extremely gory and bitter battles the United States Army retreats and the two witches square off in one of those godlike-hurling-thunderbolts-at-each-other duels that have become drearily overfamiliar in today's fantasy and science fiction.
Flashes of Farmer's old, wonderful imagination crop up here and there, as when he works out logical reasons for talking animals and animated beings like live scare- crows, but for the most part this is a wretchedly dull account which all the throat slittings and disembowellings, all the attacks and escapes, can't make dramatic. A pallid sexual affair involving one of Glinda's girl officers doesn't help. Farmer seems to deeply dislike Baum's Scarecrow and Tin Woodman - he revoltingly describes the Scarecrow as a "thing" and refers to him by the neuter pronoun "it," and unconvincingly provides Nick Chopper with an altered appearance and personality. The Cowardly Lion remains offstage, fortunately. Dorothy's erstwhile companions are soon dropped and Hank begins traveling with two facsimiles of cavemen from Farmer's "Riverworld" series, who provide a few laughs, but not many. All in all, where Baum's Oz was wondrous, fanciful, and sparkling with fun, Farmer's Oz has all the rollickingjollity and elfin charm of The Texas Chain-Saw Massacre.
For reading entertainment, get yourself Farmer's The Lovers, or The Green Odyssey or one of the "World of Tiers" series. Leave A Barnstormer in Oz to the psychoanalysts, who may discover what childhood trauma made this author try to exorcise Oz by bathing it in blood and battering it to oblivion with a Browning Automatic Rifle. (Hal Lynch)
Probably limited in appeal to Farmer fans, these seven typically eclectic stories are suggested for collections where the author has a ready older teenage audience. (Sally Estes)
A far cry from Riverworld but just as innovative and sure to be a hit with older teenage sf fans. (Sally Estes)
Dayworld's readers will want to continue the story in the fast-paced sequel.(Sally Estes)
(HarperCollins £14.99 366pp hc) Hardcover edition of the above, intended for libraries only. Volume three in the "Dayworld" series. [First UK edition]
Philip José Farmer's Red Orc's Rage — which may have confused some readers who expected it to be another "Word of Tiers" novel — is instead a largely realistic tale of how the Tiers novels have actually been used in psychotherapy. Despite its realistic trappings, its a fable of the healing power of the imagination, and probably the first novel to present clinical evidence that sf is good for your mental health. (Gary K. Wolfe)