“The Quest of Qui” was originally published as the July, 1935 issue of “Doc Savage Magazine”. When Bantam Books reprinted these classic stories in paperback novel format, this title became #12 in their series (July 1966). It was written by Lester Dent under the house name of Kenneth Robeson.
Tourists aboard a yacht called Sea Scream find what appears to be a Viking Dragon Ship off the coast of Long Island, NY. Venturing closer, they discover the ship's passengers resemble Vikings and they are holding a beautiful blonde as prisoner. The mysterious discovery leads to the threat of violence when the Vikings exchange boats with the Sea Scream's passengers. The Viking ship, and it's passengers, arrives safely back to harbor while the Sea Scream goes missing.
In the opening chapters, Johnny (William Harper Littlejohn) finds some clues that suggests the Viking ship may have sailed near the Labrador Coast, an arctic area in the Canadian Northeast. He flies solo to the area and discovers a wounded man and a bunch of bad guys. Escalating the mystery further, the rest of Doc Savage's “fabulous five” crew are all attacked in New York by phantom like entities that throw knives and spears. What!?!
After aligning with a wealthy business owner, Savage and company fly to Labrador searching for Johnny, a missing plane and some evidence that the theft of the Sea Scream is connected to the personal attacks the team experienced. Once there, the gang fights with greedy criminals, dwarves, and Vikings while trying to survive the harsh conditions.
I can't help but feel as though Dent just gets in his own way while writing this story. After the entire 119-pages, I still don't understand any of it. Why? Because Dent spends most of his time fixating on the adventure without explaining any of it. Who are the criminals? Why are the Vikings ageless? What is the mysterious glowing liquid found in the New York harbor? Why and how are invisible entities attacking the team? None of this is explained. It's as if Dent just wanted to get out in front of this story and provide atmosphere, wild adventure and an epic fight...without actually designing a coherent plot.
I'm just a casual Doc Savage fan and have enjoyed prior installments. But this novel was really difficult to enjoy within the murky haze of an undeveloped plot. Whoever said the most beautiful view comes after the hardest climb never read “The Quest for Qui.”
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