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    Review of THE INSIDIOUS DR. FU-MANCHU by Sax Rohmer

    Dover Publications (and other publishers). First published 1913

    Dr. Petrie is visited by long-time friend Nayland Smith and hurled into adventure. Smith, recently returned from British Burma, is on the trail of mysterious and evil Chinese scientist/political leader Dr. Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu and his fellows will stop at nothing to prevent Europe's leading students of the orient from revealing his secrets, and the plot to overturn the game of Empire as it was played in the early 20th Century to put China at the top of the world.

    Fu Manchu has limited resources--a few practicers of Thuggee and Dacoits, but his scientific skills make up for this lack. He has access to rare poisons, secret gasses, trained monkies, and control of a beautiful woman willing to lead men to their doom. This woman, however, turns out to be a key to Smith's investigation when she falls for Petrie, saving him--and Smith--from certain death at the hands of Fu Manchu.

    The opening novel in the long-running Fu Manchu series (Rohmer wrote approximately 14) is well constructed and fast-moving with Smith and Petrie always a step behind the brilliant Fu Manchu, yet willing to continue with plucky British spirit. Author Sax Rohmer shows a grudging respect for the evil Fu Manchu, but reflects the fears of his time--that the 'yellow peril' is fearsome indeed, and that a clash of civilization between the west and the inscrutible east is under weigh. That Fu Manchu's nation was largely occupied by western armies, forced to admit the Opium that poisoned some of China's finest minds, and that much of the rest of the east was a part of the British Empire added only the slightest tinge of sympathy for the evil Fu Manchu.

    At a time when China is set to become the world's leading economy, fears of the 'yellow peril' are increasingly common and I felt it worthwhile to give THE INSIDIOUS DR. FU MANCHU another look. I thought Rohmer's writing held up well and that this story, unlike some of his later works which rely much too extensively on coincidence and luck. All in all, FU MANCHU makes for interesting reading an serves as a bit of a time machine into the mind of the British man-in-the-streets who saw the British Empire at its greatest extent, yet felt ever-threatened by the mysterious east.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 7/02/06

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