Everyone knows about the journey Phileas Fogg took around the world in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. A mechanically minded English gentleman suddenly jets off around the world, accompanied by his French valet, Passepartout, and has a variety of adventures – including saving a Parsi woman from death and avoiding arrest by an English detective.
A close reading of the story, however, reveals some key plot holes, such as why did Fogg take the bet in the Reform Club? He appeared to never leave England, and there was no real reason for him to declare that he’d do so now. For someone who lived such a routine life, in fact, going on a world-girdling adventure appeared completely out of the question. And would, for any normal person.
But Phileas Fogg was not normal. Rather, he was an agent of an alien race known as the Eridaneans in their secret war against the evil Cappelleans. It’s this story – the real story – behind the world-spanning adventure of Verne’s tale that Phillip Jose Farmer relates in The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (Titan Books, May 2012, 246 pp.).
The Other Log is the first in Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe, which assumes the great heroes of 19th Century European literature were real people and the novels about them were only thinly veiled fictionalizations of their lives. Titan is re-releasing the Farmer books, originally published in the 1970s, in wonderful new paperback editions so they remain in print.
The Other Log begins with a commentary on whether or not Verne knows the real story behind the famous global dash around the world. Farmer assumes he didn’t, otherwise the venerable French author would be too afraid to write about it. This secret war, you see, has been going on about 200 years by the time of Fogg’s journey. A journey, incidentally, that he was told to take by the chief Eridanean in order to secure a secret transportation device known as a distorter.
The Cappelleans have secured one of these devices in China, and this is something the Eridaneans cannot let pass. The two races are deadly enemies, with each committed to the other’s extinction so they can bring mankind into a new era of peace and harmony. Seriously … that’s the goal of both sides.
Passepartout is an alien agent as well, as is Aouda (the Parsi woman Fogg saves). Arrayed against them are Captain Nemo – real name Professor James Moriarity – and Colonel Sebastian Moran as the Capellean agents. Oh, and the Fogg-chasing Detective Fix is a Cappellean agent as well, which adds an entirely new depth to his pursuit of Fogg across the entirety of the globe.
All in all, The Other Log makes Phileas Fogg out to be much more of an action hero than he was in Around the World in Eighty Days. I rather liked the examination into what might be the story behind the story, which could also explain such odd occurrences in the original story as to why the clocks of London all struck nine when Fogg arrived. (Hint: A distorter emits nine loud clangs when it goes off, so Farmer postulates that it was actually a distorter banging when Fogg arrived.)
I highly suggest The Other Log for any Steampunk fan looking for another interpretation of the global dash Fogg took around the world. It’s good reading, and offers a very well-put-together story in its own right. I give it 5 gears of out 5.