306 pages. Foreword, introduction, addendum (resolving anomalies in the story), acknowledgments, afterword (explaining the Wold Newton concept), afterword (expanded chronology).
Philip Jose Farmer, who is generally recognized as one of the top sci-fi authors of the 20th Century, liked to 'borrow' stories and put his own spin on them. This is one of those novels.
Here, he builds on Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. There's a famous mistake in this novel near the ending, where the bells of London ring at a rather odd time. Farmer imagines that this is not a mistake at all, and comes up with 'the story behind the story' to explain the whole thing!
Not to reveal too much, the protagonist of the original novel – Phileas Fogg – is only making the trip around the world as a pretext; he is actually on a secret mission involving a war between two alien factions hidden on Earth!
The author then retells the original Verne tale, keeping to the style of the original, but adding many 'this is what really happened' episodes.
I found the novel enchanting at first, and admired the author's clever additions and inventions, the alien artifices, the gradual unfolding of the backstory. However, about halfway through, the novel ran out of steam for me. Reading to the end was an effort.
The extra material at the end of the book attempts to tie this novel into Farmer's Wold Newton concept, which is that something fell to Earth years ago in a place called Wold Newton, causing a few people (and their descendants) to develop remarkable powers, such as Doc Savage, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Fu Manchu. To me, this felt like retrofitting this novel into the Wold Newton concept, and it didn't fit well with the aliens background. Overly clever.
Can this novel be gamed? Yes, it should be possible to put together a campaign between the alien factions, based on the novel's background but not specifically this plot, battling among humanity while remaining undetected.
This 2012 edition, by the way, is part of a planned republishing of Farmer's major works by Titan Books. The cover art has nothing to do with this novel.
Would I recommend this novel? Not particularly; read it only if you are a completest and want to read everything Farmer wrote.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .