It started when a Viking Dragon ship attacked a yacht in the waters outside New York. Next, “Ham” was stabbed with a 1,200 year-old Viking knife. Then Johnny was captured and frozen solid in a block of arctic ice. Finally, even the mighty man of bronze himself — Doc Savage — is kidnapped and enslaved by the chilling menace. What is his plan this time? Can he save himself and his friends from almost certain destruction?
9 thoughts on “Quest of Qui”
Bottom feeder of the “lost civilization” Doc stories, which are usually one of my favorite genres of Doc stories.
I enjoyed this tale. It’s short and lean, which usually makes for a fast paced roller-coaster ride. Viking attacking yachts, and Doc pulling a Lincoln and freeing the slaves of Qui. Good fun all around.
“Quest of Qui” will always hold a spot in my list of the top ten Doc Savage adventures. Great stuff. Too bad the pulp cover is so bland, with just a profile picture of Doc.
Critique of Quest for Qui
I’ve commented on this book before for various reasons, but I’ll critique it again here since I just re-read it. Quest for Qui, as noted, isn’t one of the best Doc “Lost Race/Secret Civilization” books. It had potential up front, with all the Viking goings-on, but then it decided to drop that and make it a non-Viking book in the end, which then kind of dies with a whimper. It could have been much better, but it still has some merit. There are a few interesting notes to make.
One, this is another Hidalgo-esque tale. You realize the parallels only at the end, in the last chapter. We have a lost valley civ that has hidden treasure. Doc defends it, earns the lost civ’s respect and trust and stays for four months there, they offer him their wealth for his help, which he provides when he returns to NYC. He sells their wealth, then purchases them modern supplies and has it shipped out to Qui periodically as they need it. He keeps their existence secret from the outside world, because he knows they’d be destroyed if discovered. Kind of a reverse Hidalgo in that it is Arctic instead of tropical.
Two, this book shows the aids all making ostentatious displays of wealth. Monk’s penthouse has a marble and chrome pigpen for Habeas plus a separate room he decorated just to accentuate his beautiful secretary when she works there. Ham (called the Beau Brummel of NYC) is shown to be living in his exclusive Park Avenue club, and his trappings are naturally lavish: he even has a 24 cane case with identical swordcanes and a serum dipping container.
Three, we have a few quirks I don’t remember reading before. Renny constantly knocks his fists together in the early part of the book (Bantam pp24, 30, 34, 54, for example) as almost a nervous habit. Monk loves Doc’s driving, but hates Renny’s and says “if you drive I walk.” (p 38) Amazingly the Hudson warehouse (not called Hicdalgo Trading Co. in this book) is burned down by crooks and they try to salvage his aircraft and ships, but lose a lot. One vehicle is called a “stratospheric dirigible” Doc was inventing. What is this, a dirigible to outer space? Cool. Johnny’s physical condition is described as a “glandular problem” diagnosed by Doc and it is cited as the only reason he survived some horrible freezing death in the Arctic. There is one rather cool Doc scene where he grimly tells Johnny to launch a desperate attack and his voice is described as a “chill nothingness.” Most amazing of all, Doc gambles the entire success of his mission on a villain’s character. One of the bad guys had a change of heart and Doc believes him, so brings him into their secret and relies on him to carry the whole mission out by playing along and setting things up for Doc. It is a very unique moment in the entire series and stuns aids that Doc relied on his split-second judgment, his assessment of a criminal’s character, to save them all.
This was my first Doc. I bought it the week it came out and thought the “attack” in Doc’s laboratory fantastic, and I was especially impressed with Doc’s use of chain mail. I also thought Johnny did a splended job, as did Ham. The cover, though, really gripped me. I think, overall, this isn’t one of the best Docs, but it was good enough to hook me when I was 16 years old. I’m still hooked.
This was the first Doc novel that I read–though not the first Doc novel that I had seen (that was The Lost Oasis). I loved the Bama cover then and was always amazed that Graphitti Designs never printed this one up as one of their posters. The detail of the James Bama painting is extraordinary; you can tell he took a lot of time getting this one right (as he did not for the cover to The Haunted Ocean). Still, it’s a wonky adventure that puts Johnny through the ringer in the Arctic and Ham gets banged up real good near the beginning.
As others have commented, “Quest of Qui” starts strong, but really deflates at the end. The Qui civilization turns out to be a crashing bore, as does the treasure the villains are searching for. The only good thing about the book is all the face time Johnny gets, which is what makes the beginning so fun. Too bad Dent couldn’t end just as strongly. I give this one a low “C.”
Only an average Doc, although the premise sounds great. The opening is fantastic: a pleasure-cruising yacht off of Long Island is suddenly seized by a dragon boat full of Vikings. That Lester Dent, he sure knew how to open a story. The rest of the novel never lives up to the joyful absurdity of this first chapter. Doc Savage and his team adventure up to Greenland to find a lost pygmy civilization (the “Qui” of the title) and stop robbers looking to loot their ancient treasure. There are icy death traps, a few bizarre attacks by ancient Viking weapons that seem to fly out of nowhere, and a very exciting aerial dogfight where Doc just barely manages to outwit his enemies and down their plane. But it hangs together too loosely, the usual comic interludes with Ham and Monk are more tiresome than usual, and the final explanations don’t satisfy the way they do with the best of Dent’s novels.
This was much better than I expected – a re-read after 39 years. Back in the 60s, as a sci-fi loving teenager, I craved the “mad science” Doc stories. As an adult I almost like the low-tech adventure Docs better – Czar of Fear,Sargasso Ogre, Lost Oasis, Thousand-Headed Man.
However, the explanation for the mysterious knife-throwing incidents was weak. Sometimes Dent slips up in this regard (see Mystic Mullah too) -perhaps in a rush to wrap it up and get back to his yacht/airplane for another real-life adventure…