Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Doc Savage: Skull Island -- Will Murray

This is not your grandfather's Doc Savage.  

The story opens with Doc returning to New York just after the fall of Kong, whose enormous carcass is lying in front of the Empire State Building.  Doc tells Johnny, Monk, and Renny that he knows the beast.  He tells them nothing more for the moment but instead arranges for the removal of the body and its transport back to Skull Island.  Then we get the rest of the story in flashback.

When Doc returns home from WWI, he finds a message from his father waiting for him.  Clark Savage tells Doc to join him in California. From there they'll begin a search for Doc's grandfather, Stormalong Savage, a search that leads them to the Indian Ocean and to Skull Island.  Along the way, Murray spends a good bit of time on the relationship between Doc and his father, who, as fans of the series know, turned Doc's upbringing over to others in order to produce a man of many and varied accomplishments and skills.  Most of Doc's questions about his father and his upbringing go unanswered, though we do get a hint at the end of the story about where the idea for this unusual child-rearing method might have originated.  We learn nothing much about Doc's mother (though we do learn her name, which I won't reveal).  Doc and his father do grow a bit closer on their voyage, and even moreso later, but it's still not a comfortable relationship.

They eventually arrive at Skull Island, which is much as it's depicted in the King Kong movie, but with even more dangerous creatures.  And there are headhunters galore, Dyaks who have some to Skull Island to take the biggest head of all.  It becomes clear now, as had been indicated earlier, that WWI provided Doc with an education in violence and killing.  There's quite a lot of that in the novel, and it leads Doc to certain conclusions in the end.  Stormalong turns up, and he's quite a character.  Some of his adventures would no doubt make an entertaining novel of their own.

And then there's Kong.  He's the mighty force of nature that you'd expect, and some readers might wish there'd been even more of him in the novel.  There are some hints about his connection to the Savages that we'd like to learn more of, too.

Will Murray has been writing about Doc Savage for a long time.  He knows the series (and other pulp series) as well as anybody could, and until now he's been sticking with more or less conventional adventures for Doc and his crew.  Now he's breaking new ground.  Will he continue to do so?  An intriguing question, and one that we can look forward to having answered later, I'm sure.  For now, we have this rousing adventure in the great pulp tradition but with a modern sensibility, too. And some great Joe DeVito art.  Doc Savage fans will have to have it.  If you're not a fan yet, this would be a great place to begin your own adventure.


George said...

I loved SKULL ISLAND, too! I hope Will Murray continues to write these Doc Savage adventures. I'll keep buying and reading them!

Stephen B. said...

When this novel was announced, it was a terrific surprise - for me.

Historically this is the first novel as Will Murray for a Doc Savage book, as the name Kenneth Robeson was used on the series for every other title (with the exception of one published by another adventure/science fiction author)!