The diaries of Lord Grandrith, the legendary Apeman, Lord of the Jungle and bastard son of Jack the Ripper. Blessed with unnatural long life, his power brings with it a gruesome side effect – one shared by his nemesis, the formidable Doc Caliban, Man of Bronze and Champion of Justice.
But these two titans have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Who are the dark manipulators of their destiny?
A brand-new edition of the controversial novel.
Greetings to ill and sun-dried,
Today, I’m reviewing Titan Books’ new edition of Philip José Farmer’s classic, controversial novel A Feast Unknown. This much-misunderstood book is an amazing read, and among the talking points below I share my thoughts on the book’s more graphic content. I hope you will give this wonderful tome a chance.
Signed in human blood,
Sean Lee Levin
When I first read this novel a year or two before Titan’s rerelease, I was shocked and greatly impressed. The late Philip José Farmer has been my favorite author for the past eleven years, and I have greatly enjoyed every single novel and story of his that I’ve read. A Feast Unknown is no exception. Farmer’s jungle lord Lord Grandrith and bronze hero of Technopolis Doc Caliban may seem familiar to fans of pulp and adventure fiction, but once you get past the surface they are very distinct from their inspirations, and indeed are in some ways more three-dimensional and realistic then their counterparts, as entertaining as the latter’s exploits absolutely are. Certainly, some of the activities Grandrith and Caliban engage in during the course of Farmer’s novel are ones that their inspirations’ chroniclers would never have dreamed of depicting.
It bears noting that A Feast Unknown is, as has often been noted, very graphic in its depiction of sex, violence, and combinations of the two. Indeed, it was originally published by Essex House, a company that specialized in pornographic novels. However, Farmer’s depiction of extreme human (or superhuman) behavior in this novel is never gratuitous and rarely titillating. While Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ ape-man was steadfastly devoted to his wife, Grandrith is much more sexually adventurous. Similarly, while Lester Dent‘s man of bronze was chaste, Caliban is somewhat sexually maladjusted, despite being in a relationship with his cousin Trish. As Art Sippo states in his wonderful afterword (which is an outgrowth of a speech he gave at the fan celebration FarmerCon in 2011, which I was lucky enough to hear and congratulate him upon), the passages deemed controversial by many have their roots in real-world practices, and tie into the points Farmer is trying to make. Speaking as a film buff who has watched a number of graphic movies, the provocative passages, while somewhat uncomfortable to read at times, are still not as off-putting for myself as they are for many readers. And, as Pablo Picasso astutely observed in one of my favorite quotes, “The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ taste.” It is worth noting that Farmer wrote two sequels, Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin, which are much less explicit in content, although still quite excellent.
Philip Jose Farmer was as controversial as he was renowned among science fiction readers in his lifetime, and this novel is a perfect example of why. That being said, it is also one of the best of his works, and only adds to my disappointment that most people outside genre circles are unaware of Farmer’s work. If you read this book with an open mind, you may just appreciate it as much as I do. Titan’s recently-concluded series of Farmer reprints is topnotch, and I applaud them for putting one of his best and most notorious tales back into print! Though not to everyone’s tastes, I feel that his book deserves every one of the five out of five tentacles I give it!
Sean Levin – Associate Editor/Reviewer/Reporter