Sometime in the mid 1980's, Philip Jose Farmer came up with the concept of The Dungeon, a six part saga of Clive Folliot searching bizarre worlds for his missing brother, and turned other writers loose on it. The Black Tower:
Major Clive Folliot leaves his post in the army and his lover behind in order to go to equatorial Africa to search for his missing brother Neville. Along the way, he runs afoul of shady gamblers, meets an old friend of his, Horace Hamilton Smythe, and a new friend, Sidi Bombay.
However, once Clive gets to Africa, he finds his journey has just begun when he is plunged into another world, The Dungeon, and has to contend with its mysterious inhabitants while searching for his missing brother...
The concept of The Dungeon is remniscent of both Riverworld and the World of Tiers, two PJF favorites. People are plucked from various worlds and time periods and whisked to the worlds of the Dungeon to take part in some kind of cosmic chess game. The worlds are odd and straight out of PJF. I'm sure Richard A. Lupoff knew what Farmer had in mind when he conceived the Dungeon and tried to stay close to the blueprint.
I've never heard of Richard A. Lupoff before this undertaking. His prose is okay. Nothing to shout about but most of PJF's is the same way.
The characters are fairly well done. I know both Smythe and Bombay are still hiding things. Folliot isn't as skilled as most PJF heroes but the devotion to his brother keeps him going. Finnbogg, the humanoid bulldog, is an endearing sort. I hope nothing ghastly happens to him before series end. I have to say I wasn't surprised by User Annie's true identity. It seemed obvious.The Dark Abyss:
The Dark Abyss starts minutes after the conclusion of The Black Tower. Clive and friends flee the Black Tower and travel to more layers of the Dungeon, still on the trail of Clive's brother and the missing Sidi Bombay. Along the way, Clive earns the nickname Serpent Slayer and a strange relationship developes between he and Shriek.
The Dark Abyss was better written than the Black Tower and more exciting. Clive and company continuously go from one peril to the next. The layers explored in the Dark Abyss were more exotic than those in the previous volume. My two favorite parts of this volume involve Shriek, the humanoid spider woman. The image of the assembled party climbing down Shriek's spider silk rope toward the ocean below was spectacular. The best/weirdest part was the strange telepathic love blossoming between Clive and Shriek. Though I was initially disgusted, part of me was hoping those two would hook up.
The only complaint I had was that Annie's dialogue was nothing like it was in the first book.