Now this is strange, I recommend you read this audiobook despite it having some pretty awful writing. I’ve never found myself rooting the the villain as much as with this book, a book in which the mostly off-screen antagonist outshines the on-screen protagonists. First published in 1913 the titular character of The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu (aka The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu) has come to epitomize a the embodiment of a socio-cultural meme known as THE YELLOW PERIL. The purported protagonists, Dr. Petrie and Sir Denis Nayland Smith, are a pair of casually racist assholes. They carry their ignorant colonial bully-boy tactics with them into every scene like a foul and infecting stench. Their agenda, to protect white supremacy at all costs, makes their foe’s vaguely villainous goals all the more palatable. But what is it that their enemy, Dr. Fu-Manchu, wants to do exactly? He is clearly ruthless. Is it simply world domination? Maybe. But even if that’s true, I can’t imagine he’d be as offensive as these two English assholes. When Fu Manchu does finally show up he seems more of a curious zoologist than an arch-fiend. It sounds bad, and it is, with bad writing for the most part, but it’s also very something iconic, and in that sense it is both important and worthwhile.
I think what Sax Rohmer did was write the novel, in earnest, from the heroes’ perspective – what time has done has has turned the heroes into villains and the villain into the hero.
We did couple of podcasts on this book and this subject earlier this year: The SFFaudio Podcast #051 and #052, and I’ve been thinking about the yellow peril again recently. After watching the glossily re-imagined Hawaii Five-O pilot (if you value your vaunted opinion of humanity’s as the paragon of animals stay far clear) I was reminded of the yellow peril’s turn in the original Hawaii Five-O TV series. It had a 13 episode arc that spanned from the first episode in 1968 to the final episode in 1980. That was good stuff. The racism that infects The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu had been replaced in the original Hawaii Five-O by a RED MENACE (guised as YELLOW PERIL). Since that last episode aired the USA has come a long way in the racism department, but bad writing, in books and television, will always be with us.
The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu
By Sax Rohmer; Read by FNH
30 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 7 Hours 20 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: October 9, 2010
The first of the Fu-Manchu novels this story follows the two characters who are set against the machinations of the insidious doctor.
Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/3488
iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|
[Thanks also to Gesine and Leni!]
Posted by Jesse Willis