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Umboi Island, is part of the Creature X series, which charts the adventures of a TV documentary crew who chase cryptids around the world. In this instalment it is the Ropen of New Guinea, a bioluminescent Pterosaur, which the crew is trying to capture on film, to either bring back evidence of it’s existence, or a more scientific explanation for the various sightings over time. However, not content with a cryptozoological mystery a member of a scientific research crew is found dead, and it is a member of the TV crew who looks to have the most motive to have done it.
Umboi Island while occasionally musing on the dichotomy between science and belief, is first and foremost a romp and an evolutionary step forward for the Boys Own Adventure genre. For people over a certain age, that genre will also produce a shudder of memories, steeped as it was in the most blatant jingoistic sexism and racism.
The author, JJ Dupuis, has obviously made an effort to retain the best of the Boys Own Adventure, mystery, action, adventure, pace, and slough of the worst, through a more diverse cast of characters, including those who are native to New Guinea, who have capabilities and skill far beyond anything that could have been dreamed up last century, or by our Victorian forebares.
This update, touches on several debates within publishing, which is notoriously risk averse, and has been struggling somewhat when it comes to debates about whom can write what. Some have agued that melanatedly challenged authors indeed have no right to write charctors of colour or tell their stories, while others take a more reasonable position that says of course we can, but it needs to be done with sensativity, knowledge and avoiding the pitfalls of steriotypes.
These discussions around the representation of race are important, and worth having even if they are not always comfortable for the milked skinned amoung us. However as much as the ancestory of the Creature X series raised some of these questions around race and representation, I doubt that the answers to the questions publishing, often a bastion of the establishment, rather than a scourge, will be soley found in the Creature X novels. Becuase Creature X, is not trying to contribute to sociatal debate, we are not going to find lofty speaches on the scourge of racisim, but rather charactors who are capapble, intelligent and talented no matter what their colour.
Creature X is ultimately trying to entertain, rather than change the world, an egoistic conceit to begin with, and sometimes, as long as it is done mindfully, and conciously of impact of steriotypes entertainment for it’s own sake is enough. And perhapse, while writing a hunt for a mythological creature, Dupuis has managed a few blows in getting rid of other dinosaurs altogether.