“…there are still lost lands in the remote corners of the earth where fantastic monsters roam, where chaste and beautiful women remain to be rescued from sneering villains, and where adventure and peril and heroism thrive amid exotic and bizarre scenery.”
I was just sweet sixteen…
Well, no, I was a tad younger, actually, when I found, on a shelf of my favourite bookstore, an old copy of Lin Carter’s Journey to the Underground World, published by DAW book.
A very small pocket-sized paperback, the pages crispy with age, and a cover with… well, with a pterodactyl carrying away a busty blonde.
Now, I do not know if it’s still like this out there, or if it was ever like this anywhere else back then, but when I was a kid of ten or thereabouts, the general practice was, they handed you a thick Jules Verne book, maybe for Christmas, or for your birthday – because you were a kid, and kids “just love” adventure stories.
OK, so let me tell you – there’s nothing worse, when you are a kid of ten/twelve in the seventies, to be handed a 1950s translation of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
So I went through Verne’s Center of the Earth as a kid, being bored silly, when I found out there were actual real books with Tarzan in them.
Tarzan, the guy from the movies.
Only, I found out, much better than in the movies.
Having read a few Tarzans, I started looking for something I really thought should be a smash – At the Earth’s Core, from the same guy that did Tarzan, but… wow, with dinosaurs! And adventure! And babes!
But the novel was not translated in Italian, so I put it on my list for my project of starting and reading in English.
And then, I found Zanthodon.
Lin Carter’s Zanthodon books – the first in the series being the afore mentioned pterodactyl-with-blonde book – are a pastiche of Burrough’s Pellucidar series.
And they are fun.
They are, probably, the best stuff Carter wrote – I love the John Dark novels, I enjoyed his Lemurian tales, but Zanthodon is more tongue-in-cheek, more happy-go-lucky in its approach to the exotic adventure, more modern, and fun.
In an classic Burroughsian twist, Eric Carstairs journeys by drilling-mole to a huge cave beneath the Sahara, where the classic cast of babes and dinos awaits.
His sidekick is eccentric Professor Percival Penthesileia Potter.
You can guess the rest.
Carter follows the Burroughs standard plot closely – but provides us with a highly psaeudo-scientific rationale for the existance of his subterranean worls, which is actually slightly more plausible than the classic Hollow earth scenario.
Blimey, it was fun!
A few months later, I left Zanthodon for Pellucidar, having found a copy of teh Signet edition of the first book.
But Carter’s slightly parodic and yet not-ridiculous-at-all approach to his stories and characters remained with me a long time.
Right now, I’m going through my Pellucidar and Caprona books, and I’ll probably post some ideas here.
But before I start, I wanted to pay homage to Lin carter’s Underground World.
It was great fun.
- Advanced Readings in D&D: Lin Carter (tor.com)
- The Hollow Earth Catalog (vovatia.wordpress.com)
- Earths inside the Earth–a Short Note on Inner Civilizations. And a Map. (longstreet.typepad.com)