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WesternSFA
A Feast Unknown
by Philip Jose Farmer
Copyright 1969, 281 pages paperback
Philip Jose Farmer had a lifelong love affair with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters, particularly Tarzan. He was to write several books either directly referring to Tarzan or to a character that bore a striking resemblance to Tarzan. This story is of the latter plus the indisputable character of Doc Savage.

James Cloamby, Viscount Grandrith, was the baby marooned on the African shore and raised by non-humans (not apes.) He later recounted his life to a writer who proceeded to write stories about him that were not, altogether, true. This novel is the true rendering of events of his life. It is true that not all the fault lay with his first biographer, Edgar Rice Burroughs; Lord Grandrith felt it necessary to omit certain details that were sure to offend and outrage Burroughs’ sensibilities. But later, Grandrith felt it incumbent upon himself to write the true story and find a writer who would publish it as he intended – Philip Jose Farmer. The events of this particular novel are actually from Grandrith’s ninth volume of his memoirs and covering part of 1968. The other volumes are hidden; only time will tell if we, the public, will ever see those words.

As the story opens, Grandrith is at his African home, when he awakens to an attack. He attacks back but ends up on the run across the savannah. To his surprise, he discovers he is being herded and not by the Kenyans and Albanians who destroyed his home. This is a white man with an uncanny ability with a rifle who keeps him moving in a direction not of his choosing. He does manage to sneak into the white man’s camp to gain information on this hunter. The man goes by the name of Dr. Caliban and he apparently blames the rape and death of his beloved cousin on Grandrith. Grandrith has no idea who either Caliban is or the dead woman. Doc Caliban is a huge, perfectly proportioned giant of a man, with bronzed skin. Unfortunately, while trying to escape a trap that Caliban set, Grandrith becomes the captive of the Albanian who was originally hunting him. The two travel a great distance until Grandrith finally has an opportunity to escape only to find Caliban still on his trail. It becomes clear that both men are actually traveling to the same rendezvous.

Grandrith is heading for the mountain of the Nine to answer a summons. Caliban knows his destination because he, too, is an agent of the Nine. The Nine are nine unimaginably ancient people who secretly rule all human society. And their faithful agents are gifted with the same longevity. When Grandrith and Caliban finally meet face to face in the caverns, they are both sure it will be a fight to the death. What does develop was never expected or anticipated by either man. And the burning question in Grandrith’s mind was – did the Nine engineer all the events?

During the whole trek from his destroyed home to the mountain, Grandrith has been plagued by an aberration of his own body. It seems that every time he kills someone, he gets a massive hard-on and a mind-numbing orgasm. Disconcerting as it is, it’s more than a bit dangerous when it leaves him vulnerable in the middle of a conflict. Unbeknownst to him, Caliban is suffering from a similar affliction. And this is the real story – why is this happening?

What the gentle reader needs to know about this book is that it is unabashedly pornographic. Farmer intended it as a parody but it was rarely received, in its limited publication history, as such. If the reader does not suffer from vulnerable morals, the book can be read either as a swashbuckling heroic tale or one of the most tongue-in-cheek satires ever seen. Either way, this is a fun ride. ~~ Catherine Book

And now: test your knowledge of Farmer’s Tarzan stories in our new Trivia Contest. Click here.

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