Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The Secret Journeys of Jack London: White Fangs by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
Good things don’t always come in threes
The Secret Journeys of Jack London is a series of young adult novels loosely based on the life and literature of one of America’s greatest storytellers and adventurers. White Fangs is the third episode in the series, and may be the finale of a trilogy, although it does leave enough loose ends for possible further adventures to come. In the first two volumes, authors Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon took the trademark settings and themes of London’s writings and cleverly adapted them to satisfy the tastes of today’s teenage readers and their hunger for supernatural action. Book One: The Wild was based on London’s actual participation in the Klondike Gold Rush and his novel The Call of the Wild. Book Two: The Sea Wolves was an homage to London’s famous novel The Sea-Wolf. White Fangs (they neglected to include “Book Three” in the title, for consistency) unfortunately bears little resemblance to anything London ever wrote. It seems as if the authors came up with the title first—a play on London’s novel White Fang—and then went out of their way to contrive some plot device that would keep that title from becoming irrelevant. What they came up with is so bizarre that even the characters in the book can’t help but comment on how absurd it is.
After the last book’s adventures on the high seas, London returns to the Klondike, now accompanied by some of the mysterious and dangerous friends he made in the previous novel. They are traveling to Dawson and the wilderness beyond in an attempt to find Lesya, the forest spirit young Jack met up with in Book One. Along the way, they are attacked by a ferocious and horrifying foe that stalks them through the forest, aiming to slaughter them before they reach their destination. Thus, the first half of the book delivers the umpteenth variation on the plot template immortalized by the ‘80s Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator. In the second half we get scenes lifted from Night of the Living Dead and other chestnuts of the horror genre. Golden and Lebbon are skilled writers, capable of delivering moments of suspense and excitement, but this run-of-the-mill thriller is neither very original nor impressive. In the end, everything turns out pretty much how you expected it would. The only surprise in the book is the bizarre revelation mentioned earlier, but just like Book Two the cat is let out of the bag by the cover illustration.
While the first two installments of the series were published by Harper Collins, they must have declined the third book, because Amazon lists its publisher as Daring Greatly Corporation. The new publisher (possibly the authors themselves?) apparently doesn’t place an emphasis on proofreading, because there are a lot of errors in the Kindle edition, although these merely annoy and don’t hinder the reader from following the story. White Fangs also features a new illustrator, Ray Lago, but the images in the Kindle file are so tiny and low-resolution that they might as well not have been included. The only good look you get at his work is the cover image.
I had high hopes for the The Secret Journeys of Jack London. Book One was really good; Book Two was slightly less satisfying; but the third book is adequate at best. 20th Century Fox has acquired the film rights to the Secret Journeys series. These stories should lend themselves well to an effects-heavy cinematic interpretation. If the books are any indication, however, this project has the makings of a typical Hollywood trilogy in which the third film ends up being a major disappointment.
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