by Mike Resnick
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Mike Resnick has long been open about his love for pulp adventures and the types of science fiction and fantasy stories which were popular in the first half of the twentieth century. His first published story was the Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiche Forgotten Sea of Mars. Over the years, he has written pulp stories in a variety of styles, from the detective noir to the thrilling adventures of his con artist preacher, Lucifer Jones. Voyages, a collection of nine of Jones's adventures, is the latest volume following him around the globe.
In previous volumes, Jones, who claims to be a reverend, but who seems to have only a glancing familiarity with the religion he claims to espouse, has had adventures, and been kicked out of, Africa (in Adventures), Asia (in Exploits), Europe (in Encounters),and South America (in Hazards), being shown the door from North America prior to Resnick beginning to chronicle his adventures. In Voyages, Jones travels across the Pacific Ocean by ship and raft, looking fortune, women, and followers with each stop.
As with the previous books, each of the stories in Voyages is an homage to a style of adventure story from the era of the pulps which has fallen out of fashion over the past sixty years. From Easter Island to Hawaii to New Guinea, Resnick's con artist faces adventures based on King Kong, the Moai of Rapa Nui, Robinson Crusoe, and cargo cults. Told from Jones's perspective, he is quickly revealed to be an unreliable narrator who depicts everything through his own ethnocentric and misogynist point of view, nevertheless, Resnick allows the reader to get an idea of a more objective impression of events.
Resnick hews closely to the pulp stories he loves, which gives nearly all of the Lucifer Jones stories a dated feel to them. In "Weekdays," Jones finds himself stranded on a desert island with Caruso and three beautiful women. Jones figures he has a chance to enjoy a harem if he can get rid of the island's master. It becomes quickly clear that the women understand what he is after and use him to their own ends. His attempts to satisfy his male urges go similarly awry in "A Holy War" and "Pure Beauty and the Beast." In many ways, the stories are predictable and a little cliche, but Resnick's writing and his own enjoyment of the source material adds to their enjoyability.
While most of Lucifer Jones' adventures in the previous four books took place in the period between the wars, from 1922 through 1938, this book takes him into a region and period which has seen Japanese preparation for expansionism ahead of World War II. As Jones travels westward from Hawaii following his encounter with a Charlie Chanesque detective in "Harboring Pearls," the specter the War is never far from the readers' mind, even if Resnick doesn't begin to address it until Jones finds himself in the Philippines in "Pure Beauty and the Beast."
In the end, Resnick doesn't entirely close out the story of Lucifer Jones, sending his antihero off to New Zealand, where he may be afforded a chance to get into more troubles in a future volume, although just as the world is running out of places which wouldn't turn Jones away, Resnick may be running out of places to set stories, and the emergence of World War II means that future Lucifer Jones stories may have a very different feel to them, perhaps making the reverend more of a Sgt. Bilko figure for the duration of the hostilities.
The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones, and, in this case, Voyages present an escape to the pulps of the last century with an attempt to reconcile them to modern sensibilities and literary expectations. Resnick is attempting to recapture the type of adventure story which will appeal to fans of Indiana Jones and for the most part, he succeeds.
|Heads and Tails in Paradise||A Holy War|
|Harboring Pearls||The Puce Whale|
|King and Mrs. Kong||Pure Beauty and the Beast|
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