My review of Skull Island, the new Doc Savage novel by Will Murray, was posted recently at the Hugo-award-winning SFSignal.com.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Pulp legends collide as Doc Savage encounters King Kong shortly after World War I, augmenting the history of Doc Savage.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Called upon to take care of King Kong’s body after his fall from the Empire State Building, Doc Savage recounts to his aides the story of his first meeting with Kong, shortly after World War I when he and his father were searching the southern seas for Doc’s grandfather.
PROS: Adds to the origins and background of Doc Savage and features a younger, still maturing, more complex Doc; and it has Kong! And DeVito art of Kong!
CONS: Would have enjoyed seeing more of Kong; and more DeVito art of Kong!
BOTTOM LINE: Near the 80th anniversary of both King Kong and Doc Savage, this novel is a well-paced look at a younger Doc Savage, uncertain of his future, uncomfortable in his relationship with his father, and searching for a grandfather he barely knows. This “origin” story provides a more complex Doc Savage than other novels, and can be enjoyed by Savage zealots (guilty!) and neophytes alike. Kong’s portrayal is true to DeVito’s Kong: King of Skull Island, and more Kong is the main thing I would ask of this novel.
In 1933, King Kong escaped his captors and climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, where warplanes repeatedly attacked him and ultimately toppled him to his death on the ground below.
In the same time period, Doc Savage was making his name, traveling the world with his five aides, battling evil and doing good. His headquarters was in a high floor of a never-named office building, which could have been the Empire State Building.
This review could have been titled When Two Pulp Legends Collide, but I wasn’t sure if readers would think the title referred to Doc Savage and King Kong or Will Murray and Joe DeVito. Murray is the most recent incarnation of Kenneth Robeson, the “house name” for the authors of Doc Savage starting with Lester Dent. He penned the last seven books of the Bantam series of Doc Savage novels in the early 90s and has most recently resuscitated Doc Savage with his “Wild Adventures of Doc Savage” series. Joe DeVito has illustrated many books and magazine covers in the worlds of science fiction, fantasy and pop culture, and is the creator ofKONG: King of Skull Island.
Together they have created not only a legend-meets-legend novel, but added more to the origin story and canon of Doc Savage, enough of a departure from the original Doc Savage series that instead of the normal “Kenneth Robeson” by-line, Murray’s name is on the cover.
The novel is a post-World War I story wrapped around events just after Kong falls from the Empire State Building. Doc is tasked by officials with the disposal of Kong’s body, during which time he reveals to his aides (three of the five – Monk, Ham and Renny, as was the norm with many of the later Doc Savage novels) that he has known King Kong before.
The main story is told in three parts:
- Doc and his father, Clark, Sr., as they sail the seas in search of Doc’s grandfather, the legendary Stormalong Savage;
- finding and exploring Skull Island; and
- Doc and the others encountering King Kong.
The “origin” facts alone (including the existence of Stormalong Savage) veer sharply from those set forth in the Philip Jose’ Farmer “Wold-Newton Universe” (which strives to link many fictional characters in a lineage started when a radioactive meteor landed in Wold Newton, England and caused mutations that affected a large cross-section of many fictional universes). If interested, see the Doc Savage Wold-Newton chronology here. There has been some interesting (and some less-than-interesting) banter in the various Doc Savage and Wold Newton Universe forums on which version of Doc is correct or should be considered “canon” (isn’t this like arguing which fiction is more…non-fiction?) Both are great world building, and, c’mon, there’s been so many Marvel and DC Universe’s that only uber-geeks can keep track (or want to). If push came to shove, I’ll listen to Murray, who has written as Kenneth Robeson and represents Lester Dent’s (the original Kenneth Robeson) heirs. Farmer also contributed to the Doc Savage world by writing Escape from Loki, (the original Doc Savage “origins” novel showing Doc in World War I, meeting his five aides for the first time) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, a fictional biography of a fictional character.
And now, back to our story…
Read the entire review here.