Welcome to a new Friday feature! Every Friday, I’m going to be focusing on a New Pulp book that I think all of you should give a look at. Sometimes, they’ll be brand-new releases, sometimes they’ll be a little older — but all will fall into the nebulous category of “New Pulp,” meaning you won’t see me recommending any Shadow novels here — not unless somebody starts writing new ones! These recommendations won’t be in the form of a straight review. I’ll be doing overviews of the books, explaining why I think it’s worth your time to look into it, which is slightly different.
This week we’re focusing our attention on Pulp Heroes – Khan Dynasty by Wayne Reinagel. This book was published in 2010 by Knightraven Studios. Here’s how the publisher described it:
The prequel to Pulp Heroes – More Than Mortal, Khan Dynasty is an epic adventure spanning two centuries in time and linking the incredible lives of history’s most popular Victorian Age adventurers of the 1800’s with the greatest action heroes of the Pulp Era and an assortment of well-known, real-life figures. Beginning in Cairo, Egypt, nearly a century in the past, a series of seemingly random events lead to danger and intrigue, as two generations of heroes race to stop a diabolical duo from unleashing a devastating wave of death and destruction. Is there a dark alliance between the Victorian man-monster Edward Hyde and the insidious devil-doctor Hunan Sun? What is the deadly secret of the mysterious Chimera? In this completely original action-packed story, four champions of justice, Doc Titan – The Ultimate Man, The Darkness – The Master of Shadows, Guardian – Steel and Ice Justice, and The Scorpion – The Deadliest Man Alive, race to unravel a century old mystery, and prevent the destruction of England and America, while the nations of the Earth teeter on the brink of another world war. In addition to the 1930’s pulp heroes, Pulp Heroes – Khan Dynasty also features famous fictional characters from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s Frankenstein, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger series, Chester Hawks’ Captain Hazzard, J.H. Rosny’s Ironcastle, John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There?/Thing from Another World, H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Philip Wylie’s Savage Gentleman and Gladiator, and many more.
If that sounds pretty epic, then you’ve gotten the proper gist of it. This book features everything you’d ever want in a mega-sized pulp novel and would make one hell of a movie. The pastiches are thin enough that you recognize who everyone is supposed to be (The Darkness=The Shadow, Doc Titan=Doc Savage, Guardian=The Avenger, etc.) but also have a few unique twists that make them their own unique characters. Wayne doesn’t stop with just the pulp world, though, throwing in characters and places from a wide range of movies, tv shows and probably a whole bunch of things even I didn’t catch.
As the description says, this is a prequel to Pulp Heroes – More Than Mortal but I read Khan Dynasty first and think it’s a great introduction to Wayne’s work. It’s a little more polished than More Than Mortal and the plot is just so damned cool that I can’t in good conscience steer you away from this one.
Wayne’s able to not only juggle a huge cast of characters but he writes some of the best action scenes I’ve ever read. I’m seriously jealous of his ability to make the fights seem so exciting.
Is it perfect? No. Sometimes Wayne tries *too* hard to shoehorn in references to everything he’s ever liked and the structure begins to creak under the weight of it all. And the cover — which is comprised of multiple fake magazine covers spotlighting the heroes and villains of the story, is too busy. Individually, a number of the covers are great works of art — all pasted next to each other, it looks like a hot mess from a distance.
Wayne isn’t the most prolific of New Pulp authors but I think most of that stems from the fact that every one of his books is a huge, sprawling work that really knocks your socks off. You can’t go wrong with any of his books but Khan Dynasty stands above the rest.
Give it a try!