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Escape from Loki by Philip Jose Farmer (Doc Savage)

escapefromlokiPhilip Jose Farmer has long been one of my favorite authors, with his Riverworld and World of Tiers series ranking high on my list of enjoyable speculative fiction series. The Doc Savage series has also been a long time companion.

Escape from Loki is PJF’s take on Doc Savage at 16, a pilot in World War I, shot down behind enemy lines. He meets Monk and Ham (who are also hiding from the Germans) but is eventually captured, and meets the Baron Colonel von Hessel, who somehow knows Savage is being trained by his father into some kind of “superman” (interesting shades of the German “master race” in the next war). Young Savage escapes, steals a plane and is shot down. While being transported on a train to a secure prison he encounters Renny and Long Tom, who escape by knocking a hole in the side of the train. Doc escapes himself, but is again recaptured. A three-time escapee, he is sentenced to Loki, an “escape-proof” prison, which Doc and his united five companions, of course, escape from.

Farmer’s Doc has many differences from Lester Dent/Kenneth Robeson’s Doc:

  • Doc questions himself (he is 16, after all);
  • Doc is introspective;
  • Doc kills frequently (in later novels of the series he tries to avoid killing) using firearms (which he uses early in the series but shuns later);
  • Doc’s daily training is less consistent in this early depiction as it is in the series;
  • Doc has sex (off screen of course; this is the most obvious collision between Farmer (who wrote explicit sex into many of his stories) and Doc (who has no time for women during the regular series).

The story does give background on Doc’s team of five, his budding sense that he must fight evil, what evil is, and some background on his father and his motivation. Though the style is radically different that the Lester Dent (et al) authored series, it does fill in a great back story of how the team came together.

My sortable table of Doc Savage books is here.

  • Written by: Philip Jose Farmer
  • Villain: the Baron Colonel von Hessell
  • Doc Gadget: Farmer alludes to lots of items sewn into his flight suit, but the gadgets don’t stand out;
  • Doc Feat: tips over an iron bath tub and throws a large Russian in it (takes four German soldiers to right it);
  • Exotic locale: the mountains near Burchestgarden, Germany, site of the prison camp Loki
  • By the numbers: originally published 1991 by Bantam (no Bantam number, but first of the eight new stories, the rest by Will Murray); Philip Jose Farmer #1, dated March-July 1918

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