Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Land That Time Forgot is an old fashioned adventure story, which makes sense considering it was published 100 years ago.  Like most older action/adventure tales, it doesn't waste much time.  Though it takes several chapters to get to the titular "land," we are treated to no less than two exciting sea battles with a World War I U-boat.  Our hero, Bowen Tyler, saves a woman and of course instantly falls in love with her and helps a small boat crew take over the German sub.  Then there is tension and intrigue as the remaining German soldiers are held captive.  This is all before they find the lost island that has dinosaurs!  Once they find the island (after several close escapes, including a foiled mutiny and sabotage) they are greeted by gigantic river lizards that attack with impunity.  As they scan the river banks, they see trees brimming with wildlife both ancient and modern, including monkeys and apes and a few species that look almost...human.

As you can probably tell, this is a page turner.  It helps too that it's quite brief - the edition I read was only 133 pages.  If you enjoy episodic action/adventure, there is a lot to like here.  It moves swiftly from one incredible predicament to another.  What sets it apart are the little details.  Bowen Tyler isn't a burly, cocky adventurer.  He's a fair and humble everyman.  There is a bit of a love story between Bowen and the woman he rescued, Lys but she isn't just "the love interest."  She is a fuller character who is an active participant in the adventure.  There is a little of the damsel in distress element but Lys is by no means helpless.  Even the Germans (apart from their commander) aren't treated as evil villains which is impressive when you remember that this story was written during the Great War.  The island too is unlike most of the "lost world" stories in literature.  Rather than a closed off place where dinosaurs still exist, the island has its own unique ecosystem and form of evolution.  This would be a creative story if it came out today but it's doubly inventive for something from a century ago.

If you like this book, you might want to try the graphic novel edition.

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