The Other Doc Savage: Doc Brazen in the Millennium Bug

THE MILLENNIUM BUG: Doc Brazen #1 by Jeff Deischer feels more like Lester Dent than any Doc Savage pastiche I’ve ever read. I’m not entirely sure that works, though I’m sure I’ll read Book Two eventually. Caution: spoilers included below.

Deischer is a die-hard Doc Savage fan who’s written both Man of Bronze fanfic and a chronology (not the one I read a couple of years back); his cover design was a deliberate attempt to capture some of the stylized covers of the post-war novels (I’ve got an example by Walter Swenson below). He says in the afterword his dream was to write an authorized Doc Savage novel; as he wasn’t in a position to do that, writing the adventures of Ulysses Brazen was the next best thing.

As the title suggests, this 2018 novel is set in the late 1990s. Doc Brazen has retired to Coronado (equivalent of Hidalgo) happily married to the counterpart of Princess Monja (here an Aztec rather than Mayan). Then several graduates of the Crime College — er, Brazen Institute — revert to their criminal ways. Doc investigates, accompanied by two Aztecs (Monk and Ham analogs, though not exactly). During the investigation, he acquires an added team: a computer expert, a French cat burglar (one of the reprogrammed graduates) and the daughter of the female adventurer in The South Pole Terror.What’s behind it? It turns out John Sunlight‘s followers — er John Spectrum’s — cloned what was left of him after The Devil Genghis. The clone is now a thirteen year old boy and while he didn’t inherit Spectrum’s memory he’s been trained and conditioned to think just like him (a nice variation on the usual clone-the-memory techniques). Targeting the Brazen Institute is meant to blacken Doc’s name, discrediting him before Spectrum Jr. launches his master plan.

I read this enjoying Deischer’s knowledge of and love for the original series. Millennium Bug itself, though, feels more like a so-so original novel such as The Devil’s Playground than, say, Millennium’s excellent Doc Savage comic. Deischer said setting Doc in the modern world was a way to make the book stand-out, as most pastiches (e.g, Doc Sidhe) go for a 1930s setting. The trouble is, nothing felt terribly 1990s other than people having cell-phones and computers; despite the title, the Y2K bug doesn’t figure into the plot at all. The language is outdated too (calling “Thunderbird” Crale an aviatrix rather than a pilot is very pulp-era). DC Comics did better contemporary Doc stories.

Another problem is that Spectrum’s plan doesn’t make any sense: the only thing targeting the Brazen Institute accomplishes is bringing Doc out of retirement. Though that may be intentional: Spectrum, for all his brainwashing, is still a thirteen-year-old boy so it’s not surprising his plan is more about spite for “his” old foe than a tactical master-stroke.

A minor but annoying point for me is that like Will Murray Deischer insists John Sunlight’s death at the end of Devil Genghis can’t be changed out of respect for Dent; he dislikes Millennium’s decision to show Sunlight escaped death (I found it perfectly plausible myself). And like a number of fans he takes John Sunlight’s declaration in that novel that he wants to build a peaceful utopia at face value; I can’t see it as anything but a lie to get Doc off-guard. Plus of course, what constitutes a utopia for the monstrous Sunlight is probably dystopia for anyone else.

(As a minor point, has anyone ever done a sequel to Repel? Cadwiller Olden was a formidable foe and the ending clearly leaves his death in doubt. If not, someone should get on it … hmm …)

I may be making Millennium Bug sound worse than it is; it’s hard for me not to approach something like this more analytically than enthusiastically. Certainly it’s a better story than Dynamite’s initial comics story arc or Lin Carter’s Prince Zarkon. Or, you know, James Patterson’s take. I’ll see what I think when I finally get around to book 2.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover images remain with current holder.

1 Comment

Filed under Doc Savage, Reading

One response to “The Other Doc Savage: Doc Brazen in the Millennium Bug

  1. Pingback: The Other Doc Savage: Doc Brazen in the Millennium Bug — Fraser Sherman’s Blog – Barry Reese – Writer of Badass heroes

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