Review: The Mad Goblin / Author: Philip José Farmer / Publisher: Titan Books / Release Date: Out Now
One of the more common observations that we’ve heard in regard to Philip José Farmer’s work is that he’s at his best when he’s been let in the sandbox to play with somebody else’s toys. Such proves to be the case with The Mad Goblin, the third in his Secrets Of The Nine trilogy.
For the uninitiated, the trilogy is about the adventures of Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban (his take on Tarzan and Doc Savage respectively), servants of the immortal Nine who control much of the world from behind the scenes and have lived since the Stone Age. Enemies at first, the two eventually decide that enough is enough and decide to overthrow their masters. There, that’s pretty much covered it.
This particular adventure follows Doc Caliban, while Lord Grandrith does other things (as seen in the second book, Lord of the Trees). For whatever reason, Farmer decided to write this one in the third person. This is a shame as it would’ve been nice to get a handle on how a guy like Doc Caliban thinks (“’bitchin’’ I thought, as I broke some guy’s neck like a twig”) but this isn’t essential to the enjoyment of the book.
Also not essential to the enjoyment of the book, but appreciated all the same, is the new content that Titan have added to the reprint of this book. They’ve included an afterword and a guide to the pertinent events of the universe in which this takes place. However, having this new material is a bit of a double-edged sword as it shows how convoluted this mythology got after a while (especially when it takes into account a book that was never finished; there is an extant outline but it’s not included with this book). It’s probably for the best that Farmer left it where it was, but it would’ve been nice if he’d given some sense of closure rather than ending the tales on a cliffhanger.
Ah well, it is what it is: a finely honed tribute to the pulp novels of Farmer’s own youth that taps into that desire to believe in larger-than-life heroes and the hope that there are men like Doc Caliban out there. Maybe there are, maybe there will be. But for now, we must be content with reading their escapades in novels like this.