Monday, April 01, 2013

Doc Savage: Skull Island - Will Murray

To Will Murray: You had me at "Doc Savage meets King Kong."

Seriously, that pairing of two of the most iconic characters in adventure fiction is irresistible. The set-up is great, with Doc, Monk, and Ham arriving back in New York City right after Kong has taken his plunge off the Empire State Building. When they go to see the body and Doc says, "I know this creature," . . . well, maybe it didn't send quite as much of a shiver through me as "They were the footprints, Mr. Holmes, of a gigantic hound!", but it's still a great line.

From there we're off to a flashback that reveals not just how Doc first met King Kong in the days soon after he returns from World War I, it also lets us get to know Doc's father Clark Savage Sr., who is a rather shadowy figure in the original novels, plus Doc's grandfather, the sea captain Stormalong Savage (a great name if there ever was one).

Once Doc and his dad, sailing on the ship Orion (the same schooner on which Doc was born) reach Skull Island in search of old Stormalong, the action is almost non-stop. Headhunters, dinosaurs, and Kong himself provide formidable obstacles for the Savages. This story takes place before Doc adopted his no-killing policy, like the first few novels in the pulp series, so the violence is pretty graphic. But there are quieter, more poignant moments, too, that are very effective.

One of the most appealing things about this novel for long-time Doc Savage fans such as myself is seeing the early, developmental stages of things that will figure prominently in the series later on, such as Doc's superfirer machine pistols and some casual mentions of Doc's uncle Alex Savage, whose daughter Pat becomes a major supporting character. There are also hints of much more Savage family history to be uncovered later on, as well as an explanation of how Doc's father came up with the idea of training him to be an adventurer. (It's not one that I would have suspected.)

If you've never read Doc Savage before, SKULL ISLAND would make a good starting point, although it is considerably different from the other novels in the series. If you're a long-time fan like me, it's even better. Will Murray's done a spectacular job here, the cover by Joe DeVito is breathtaking, and SKULL ISLAND gets the highest recommendation from me. It's currently available in e-book and trade paperback editions, with a limited edition hardcover on the way.


Charles Gramlich said...

Just started it. Great idea to begin with the body of Kong. I'm not sure I like the flashback idea but we'll see.

Scott D. Parker said...

I, too, have just started this. I read the sample on my Nook, and, like you, James, was hooked by "Doc Savage and King Kong." The purchase was merely a formality. In fact, I am reading Alan Dean Foster's Icerigger and downloaded the sample for a slight change of pace. Chances are, I'll be finishing Doc's adventure first.

Adventuresfantastic said...

I'm gonna have to get this. There's just no two ways about it.

And Scott, even though it's been a while (won't say how long), I loved Icerigger.

Scott D. Parker said...


I'm on something of an Alan Dean Foster binge right now. He's coming to Houston's Comicpalooza in May and I want to meet him because he was my first favorite SF author that helped get me into this genre. I've re-read the initial Flinx trilogy + Bloodhype and have since read book #5 and am on #6. I never got through Icerigger back in the day, but there's an electronic version with all three volumes in one. Interestingly, Icerigger is not on audio while all 14 Flinx books are.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I think this is Murray's best Doc yet, and that's saying something.