Friday, July 01, 2022

32. The Fire Goddess by Sax Rohmer

I picked up this book in the great paperback haul of early summer 2022.  I've never read a Sax Rohmer and couldn't resist this cover.  I was prepared for a lot of colonialism and straight out racism but it actually wasn't as bad as I feared.  More the somewhat benevolent and patronizing British racism where the others are othered but aren't necessarily portrayed as inhuman or less than human.  That being said, the description of a beautiful mixed race character was often portrayed as being somehow animalistically sexual.

The story is revealed in layers, with quite a few characters and plot lines going on at first, so you don't get the main gist right away.  Basically, the eponymous Fire Goddess is an insanely beautiful exotic woman who is often taking baths or lounging around in silky transparent robes flanked by two black pumas.  She is returning to Jamaica, where she has one of her many luxurious and high-security homes, to prevent the exploration and exploitation (either for a dam project or a bauxite mining operation) of a valley where she does an important fire initiation ritual ceremony.  There is a detective who is sent from England to follow up on death threats to the minister who is pushing for the dam project.  There is also a handsome young man who works for the bauxite company whose old childhood crush is now the grown up and beautiful secretary to the threatened minister.  There is also a Dexter character, who is working for but also in thrall to the Fire Goddess and he gets his own storyline of trying to break free.

So there is a lot going on and it was actually kind of fun to read and figure out where it was all headed. There is some good adventuring and exploring and lots of cool locations and side characters.  I get why these books were so popular at the time.  Unfortunately, I read that this series was kind of a copy of the Fu Manchu where the Fire Goddess basically replaces the Fu Manchu character.  So maybe I should go back and find one of those to get a better idea.

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