Book Review of The Mask of Fu-Manchu, by Sax Rohmer
he Mask of Fu-Manchu, by Sax Rohmer
Published By: Titan Books
Reviewed by: Michael D. Griffiths
Stars: 4 out of 5
The Mask of Fu-Manchu, by Sax Rohmer, is a reprinting of a book that was originally written in England in 1931. In case you have not heard of Fu-Manchu, he is one of the very first arch-villains to appear as a running adversary against a group of heroes. Like many arch-villains, Fu-Manchu is looking for nothing less than world domination. If he cannot get the whole world yet, then he will settle of a culture or two, or perhaps a few countries or in some cases almost an entire continent.
But although charismatic, Fu-Manchu is a figure of the shadows, the type of man that controls politicians and kings, but is not one himself. As would some nemesis to follow, Fu-Manchu also has a strong set of ethics. He would divert a dying village’s water supply to help his workers mine for diamonds, but his word is also his bond and despite his evil manner, he can be trusted to live up to his bargains like a gentleman.
In this story, our stalwart band of English heroes have once again been set on by the subtle strings and manipulations of Fu-Manchu when they unearth ancient artifacts that could rekindle a fanatic uprising among the Muslim people. Fu-Manchu wishes to use these items to set himself up as a new messiah in the Middle East, while the Englishmen seek to keep Fu-Manchu’s hands off them.
After several attempts to steal the artifacts and the murder of their friend, the heroes flee from the city near the dig to Egypt. But the sinister Chinaman has a new tool, a strange mimosa smelling chemical that not only knocks a person unconscious, but can be used to put them in a trance where they can be forced to obey his will. With the use of this drug, Greville helps Fu-Manchu kidnap his bride to be. Using the poor girl as a hostage, they set for a meeting to trade the woman for the artifacts within the largest pyramid.
I do not want to reveal more of the plot for it is a book worth reading. If one has never explored Fu-Manchu, it might be time you started. Many of the classic villain archetypes can find their origins within these pages. Sax Rohmer is a classic English author comparable with Doyle, Wells, and Verne, but remains far less known. The book is fast paced and action packed and leaves you wanting more.
Drawbacks of the book could include a racist aspect that is hard to deny. The threat of “the Yellow Peril,” is quite evident. Other races appear to have little will of their own and are used for tools and must be controlled. This brings up the issue of judging a man by our standards or his. Is Thomas Jefferson evil because he owned slaves? Should we disregard everything he wrote because of this? Or was he, for his time, a progressive thinker that did have valuable ideas to share? In some respects learning the origins of our past in an honest manner could have value and instead of ignoring that realty and pretending it did not happen. Perhaps instead of condemning whole centuries of humanity as evil, because they do not act like us, we can try to understand our own histories.
The Mask of Fu-Manchu was a real pleasure to read. Some of the writing was of a dated style, but this did not misplace to thrill of following these men through their adventure. Whether it is for personal enjoyment, learning more about the history of villains, or for an author to improve his own villains, The Mask of Fu-Manchu is a worthy read.