The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
By Philip José Farmer
First Published: 1973
New Titan Edition: 2012
Review © 2012 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Science Fiction, Alternate History
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg is a novel by Philip José Farmer that uncovers the “real” story behind the classic Victorian age Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days”. Farmer turns the original innocent adventure story on its ear by adding a whole new behind the scenes story involving a long running conflict between two groups of aliens who have been stranded on earth. With a combination of Victorian era adventure and science fiction elements, this ends up being somewhat of a forerunner to the current steam-punk novels.
In the forward, Philip Jose Farmer asks pointed questions about the hero of Jules Vernes book, Phileas Fogg. He asks, “Why were Fogg’s origins so shrouded in mystery? Why was his life conducted as if he were a wound-up robot?” Farmer points out that there were a lot of strange things that occurred in Jules Verne’s novel which were not well explained but now that a “secret log” of Phileas Fogg has been discovered; all the mysteries can be cleared up. Farmer then launches into retelling the “real” story of Phileas Fogg where he recounts many of the details of the famous race around the world along with the added new information. The original straightforward adventure from the Victorian age becomes a cover story for part of a complicated conspiracy driven secret war between alien factions bent on destroying each other. In addition to the alien war, there are also connections to other famous literary figures including Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s famous submarine tale.
Farmer does an excellent job of finding inconsistencies in the original Verne novel and then creating elaborate explanations and adventures to explain what really happened. He steps through major portions of the race around the world in detail with whole new side adventures. The effect is kind of like a documentary to explain all the new information that has been discovered in regards to the race. While I appreciated the many “logical” explanations and complicated backstories to make the logic work, the storytelling tended to be a bit too dry at times with the details overwhelming the story.
The best parts of the novel are when Farmer creates complete new adventures with mysteries to uncover and exciting new action. He also includes some advanced alien technology with a key element being a transporter device called a “distorter”. The less exciting parts are when he painstakingly sifts through details of the original Jules Verne story to point out the inconsistencies that lend credence to the “real” story uncovered in the secret log.
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg provides a whole new conspiracy driven science fiction story behind the classic 19 century Jules Verne tale of a race around the world. If you haven’t read the original Around the World in 80 Days, I would recommend you read it first so that you appreciate all the connections that Farmer makes to the original novel.