The Other Log of Phileas Fogg – Book Review
Turns out Jules Verne’s characters from Around the World in 80 Days were all aliens. Who knew?
Titan Books is reprinting this 1973 novella by Philip Jose Farmer, the “great 20th century science fiction writer” (as the jacket blurb puts it).
Speaking of jacket blurbs, a talent no lesser than Neil Gaiman called Farmer “a worldbuilder, of influence and some real magic.” Alan Moore said that “if only a few of our modern writers were as brilliant as Philip Jose Farmer, then I think the world of culture would be a much better place.” It is not entirely clear whether Gaiman and Moore had The Other Log of Phileas Fogg in mind when they said all these things though. (They were probably thinking of Farmer’s better known efforts such as To Your Scattered Bodies Go and Riverworld.)
It is also not entirely clear why Titan bothered reissuing The Other Log of Phileas Fogg either since it is a rather dull and uninvolving slog of a read.
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is exactly what the title implies. As you probably know – because classics are known not read as Lawrence Durrell once quipped – in Jules Verne’s famous classic novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, an eccentric Englishman named Phileas Fogg undertakes a bet that he can travel around the world in, yes, 80 days. Farmer’s novel is supposedly about a secret logbook discovered much later in which it is revealed that Fogg was in fact an undercover alien and that the whole trip was a smokescreen to steal back a powerful teleportation device from a rival alien race, also living amongst humans in secret.
In his introduction to the book, the late Philip Jose Farmer (who sadly died in 2009) tells that he has read Eighty Days several times throughout his life and is clearly in love with it. It shows. Farmer’s book takes the minute “plot holes” and inconsistencies from Verne’s novel and explains them away with Farmer’s notion that Fogg was in fact from a largely extinct alien race called the Eridaneans (or was it the Capalleans? we forget: we found our attention wandering all the time). So far, so very, um, I Am Number 4 . . .
It is a clever idea, but unfortunately Farmer’s book doesn’t live up to its premise. Unless you’re also hopelessly infatuated with Verne’s 1873 novel, the chances are quite good that The Other Log of Phileas Fogg – with its stilted and dry narration – will bore you to tears. Farmer’s book feels impersonal and one gets the idea that while Farmer probably had fun writing it as some sort of self-indulgent academic exercise, it probably won’t appeal to anyone who isn’t as infatuated with Verne’s as he is.
All so very post-modern, but also yawn-inducingly dull and self-indulgent.