Friday, August 3, 2012

Undercover Review: Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones Volume I

Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones Volume I – 1922-1926
by Mike Resnik
Phoenix Pick (Arc Manor); 195 pages
Review by Greg Daniel

Back in the 1970s, a man, who would become better known for his award-winning science fiction, created a pulp-inspired intrepid adventurer like no other with the name of Doctor Jones. No, not George Lucas. No, not that Doctor Jones.

Mike Resnik, at last count, had won more Hugos for short fiction than any other writer, but his favorite character and, all things being equal, the stories he would prefer to write are pure pulp. Inspired by the unintentional humor in a film adaptation of “She,” Resnik set out to write a story that explored the familiar tropes and themes of pulp adventure but was funny on purpose. Thus was born The Right Reverend Honorable Doctor Lucifer Jones.

Doctor Jones is a fortune hunter, con man, and missionary whose religion, by his own account, is “a little something me and God whipped up betwixt ourselves of a Sunday afternoon.” We are first introduced to Doctor Jones in Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones Volume I – 1922-1926 as he is spreading the word Of God and seeking his fortune (to be shared with his “silent partner,” of course) and spreading the word of God (said silent partner) among the heathens, imperialists, and adventurers on the Dark Continent.

Adventures consists of twelve tales that are woven together to function as both a collection of stories as well as a novel told in the first person by Doctor Jones. In the book, Doctor Jones encounters all of the African adventure standards: cannibals, white goddesses, lost tribes, elephant graveyard, mummies, great white hunter, lord of the jungle, slave traders, ivory poachers. The stories feature supporting characters straight out of Hollywood casting; think “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels” meets “Support Your Local Sherriff” meets “Casablanca.” Sprinkled liberally with Easter eggs, some obvious and some well hidden delights, these tales will all bring a smile to your face and the occasional laugh out loud moment as well. If that wasn’t enough, Resnik manages to sneak in the odd fact and real place just to keep you on your toes.

While all of the stories are well written and quite funny, a few really stood out for me. “Partners” introduces Doctor Jones’ rogues’ gallery, which will recur throughout these tales and future volumes, and sets the theme of fortunes gained and lost that is echoed throughout the Chronicles, while providing some hilarious gags and dialogue. “The Vampire” has a couple of true belly laugh moments and offers a unique occupational solution to an ancient curse. In “The Best Little Tabernacle in Nairobi” Doctor Jones has achieved one of his driving goals and discovers that he may be a bit too good at his chosen profession for his own good.

I highly recommend Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones Volume I – 1922-1926 by Mike Resnik and look forward to reading the future volumes, but I do so with a word of caution. Due to the nature and theme of the stories, there can be a strong similarity from one to next. Think of these stories as Halloween candy. Rather than sitting down and eating the entire bag at once, you might find them more enjoyable if you sample only one or two at a time. 

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