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A Feast Unknown (Secrets of the Nine #1 - Wold Newton Parallel Universe) (Memoirs of Lord Grandrith) Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton of Bookpleasures.com
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Dr. Wesley Britton

Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE

 
By Dr. Wesley Britton
Published on November 29, 2012
 




Author: Philip Jose Farmer

Publisher: Titan Books (October 9, 2012)

ISBN-10: 1781162883





Author: Philip Jose Farmer

Publisher: Titan Books (October 9, 2012)

ISBN-10: 1781162883

ISBN-13: 978-1781162880


When A Feast Unknown first appeared in 1969, it was published by Essex House, a company known for erotica. As such, it had a limited audience as was the case with subsequent editions until Playboy Press issued two versions in 1980 and 1983.

Along the way, the book acquired an offbeat reputation for a number of reasons. First, the narrator, Lord Grandrith, is quickly obvious as a pastiche of Lord Greystoke, alias Tarzan. While he has other adversaries to contend with, the most formidable is Doc Caliban, an obvious evocation of pulp fiction's Doc Savage. Recognizable they might be, but these figures are more than distinct from their inspirations.

In Tarzan's Dark Quest, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1935, Tarzan was given an elixir that essentially made him immortal. Picking up from that image, Philip Jose Farmer has it that both Grandrith and Caliban are given the same drug by a mysterious group called The Nine who set about having the two battle each other. Turns out, the pair are half-brothers and Dad was Jack the Ripper.

But the most discussed characteristic of A Feast Unknown is a rather powerful side-effect of that elixir. Both Caliban and Grandrith have massive erections only during acts of violence, and they uncontrollably ejaculate after such acts. Fortunately for them, or perhaps not so fortunately, they have many opportunities to practice their violent skills, including one scene where their extended penises cross each other like dueling swords.

So, one might think this book might be dismissed as crude and lewd entertainment with Farmer having fun with pulp fiction, horror, and erotica. But in various reprints of the book, including the new version from Titan Books, a postscript from science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon postulated there was a purpose to all this sex and violence, that "ultimate sex combined with ultimate violence is ultimate absurdity." Throughout the years, as Farmer included Tarzan and Doc Savage in his "Wol Newton" series, many critics and fans have tried to place A Feast Unknown in that canon.

Now, Titan Books does two things to add to the saga. First, there's a new introduction and coda from Arthur C. Sippo that both describes some of the book's background and offers Sippo's own critical analysis. He disagrees with Sturgeon and believes the point of the book is that even supermen with immortality in mind have moral responsibilities and, after all, are sexual beings themselves. In the newly expanded title, Titan makes it clear A Feast Unknown is not part of the Wold Newton series but rather in a parallel universe. In fact, Feast is now Book One of its own series, "Secrets of the Nine" with its sequels, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin also coming out from Titan with new material from Farmer experts.

Whatever Farmer's original intentions might have been, A Feast Unknown has both earned an extended, if not immortal, life of its own and has taken its place as a part of the highly imaginative realms of one of the most innovative writers of science fiction. Personally, I think taking the book too seriously is missing the point, as it were. This isn't "Riverworld." Neither is it for the faint-hearted, although the book isn't as shocking as it was back in 1969. Read it for enlightenment if you care to look for it—in the main, it's gruesome black comedy. Me, I'm grateful I have Lord of the trees handy. I'm ready for another round.

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