Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were a reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
The name Harlan Ellison should be known to at least most of my readership. He’s a famous science fiction author, as well as having written for Star Trek and Babylon 5. He’s also kind of a jerk. He hates the word “sci-fi”, which is a shortened form of science fiction. He has a narrow view of what qualifies as science fiction. As in I don’t think he would include Power Rangers In Space as science fiction. He wouldn’t do the interviews for the Babylon 5 DVDs because they wouldn’t pay him. (Sure I think you should get paid for your work if you desire to, provided it’s good as his stuff tends to be, but at some point you do give back to the fans who gave you that money, and possibly drum up new fans.) I haven’t read his stuff, but personally I don’t care for him.
So when he had the last story in the book I was a bit concerned. This was doubled when I saw that there are numerous typefaces/fonts in use. Who does that? Talk about distracting the reader. Well, let’s dive in and finish the book, with a Phantom/Green Hornet team-up story.
The Soul of Solomon
by Harlan Ellison
Did I Just Read?
Ladies and gentlemen…I want to say there are no words but that would make for a horrible review and even I’m not that amateur. But I don’t know what just happened! I thought this was going to be some big, cool story. I mean, team-ups like this are always fanboyish in nature. If you’re a fan of both characters, you don’t care. You just want a fun little what-if story. That’s kind of how Ellison starts off.
For six pages! Not six pages of story. Six pages about how he and Ruben Procopio, who does the illustration in place of Stephen Bryant, sat around discussing how cool this team-up would be and then finally we get the only part he was able to write, the opening set of paragraphs.
It’s just Kato going on and on and on about who he is, lampshading the various names and races writers have given him (I’d have to go over the history of the character to explain that), how he worked for Britt Reed (alias the Green Hornet), and how he met the Phantom in an adventure that led to the Phantom giving the mantle to his son and Britt commits suicide. All thanks to something called the Soul of Solomon. This is where Ellison’s writer’s block set in and he decided that this was a story that didn’t need to be told. Not the whole mysterious meteor/Hornet suicide story. Any Phantom/Green Hornet team-up story.
Speaking of going on and on, he talks about how King Kong didn’t need re-imaginings and how wrong it was to do it. How this defends his point is beyond me. He even said that he could have done a simple story about gangsters and jungle legends and stuff. Maybe he should have, but now he has me doing it so let’s get into the story he wanted to tell.
From what I gathered his concept would have been that a meteor chunk that became known as the Soul of Solomon made people go to extremes. He blames this for Cain killing Abel. (Screw free will of a rejected and jealous man. Space rock.) Because of this radiation, Solomon was planning to cut that baby in half for real instead of it being a ploy to see who was worthy of being the baby’s mother. (Wisdom? Nobody has that.) It was the catalyst in a case that would lead to Britt committing suicide and the Phantom passing the mantle to his son without dying first. Since the parentheses already spoke of my complaints from a biblical POV, let’s go with the reasons Ellison should never work on someone else’s properties.
Britt committing suicide? If you’re a fan of the Green Hornet and Kato that’s not a story you want to read. This is a property crossover. Those are supposed to be fun. A bit cheesy? Yeah, they can be, but all most fans want to see is the old “who would win in a fight” and then see the heroes team-up. (Personally, I’d rather go straight to the team-up. I don’t like heroes fighting each other unless they’re having fun sparring.) The Phantom giving up his mantle to his son while still alive? (Or does he commit suicide as well?) Against how it works, since the Phantom gives up his mantle at death, making his last entry in the Chronicles before his son speaks the oath and rises as the new Ghost Who Walks. But this is Ellison. I think he actually LOVES making other people’s characters go against type to suit his story rather than writing his story around who the characters are supposed to be.
It’s sad that this is the longest review I’ve done for this anthology, but this is my problem with Ellison on properties not his own. He either doesn’t care about what’s been established, wants to write his own characters and will alter what’s there for his benefit, or just loves to “improve” what other people have made. I’m not sure which, but this really didn’t need to be in this book at all. There’s no story here; just Harlan Ellison selling his own writer’s block. It certainly isn’t worth whatever Moonstone paid to license the Green Hornet characters. Read it out of curiosity, but otherwise ignorable.
Next Time: Either this weekend or next (con coming up) I’ll have a wrap-up on the whole anthology over at The Clutter Reports. Once convention time has died down we will start our next Chapter By Chapter book. It’s another one I haven’t read but the only teaser I’ll give is that is should be…fantastic. (No, that’s not a Doctor Who reference.)
- Chapter By Chapter: The Phantom Chronicles V2 – I Of The Storm
- Chapter By Chapter> The Phantom Chronicles V2: Night Visitor To Bangalla
- Chapter By Chapter: The Phantom Chronicles V2 – A Man of His Word
- Chapter By Chapter: The Phantom Chronicles V2 – Devil At My Side
- Chapter By Chapter: The Phantom Chronicles V2 – Justice Delayed
- Chapter By Chapter: The Phantom Chronicles V2-No Ghosts Need Apply
- Chapter By Chapter: The Phantom Chronicles V2 – The Diamonds of the Brumoli