I am not the biggest SciFi fan; I’m sure that confession comes as no surprise to anyone who has read this blog before. Its not that I don’t enjoy the genre when I read it but, like fantasy and graphic novels, I really never pick it up. Luckily I have friends who will knock on my bedroom door at midnight to hand me a book they found in a free box knowing I’d read it.
The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs excited me for 2 reasons; first off its just the type of pulp classic that I feel obligated to read knowing I will at once understand the origins of any number of stories/parodies/pop culture references. The second thing that grabbed me was that Edgar Rice Burroughs is the creator of Tarzan, another classic I just NEED to sink my teeth into.
The Land That Time Forgot is really three short novels published in serial form back in the 1940’s; The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, and Out of Times Abyss. Each book chronicles the adventures of a different cast of characters as they fight for survival in and escape from the unforgiving time capsule of Caspak.
Caspak is a fictional bowl shaped island somewhere off the coast of Antarctica formed when a volcano exploded. The unique shape and location above underwater steam vents create a hot, almost tropical climate and the isolation from the outside meant that over time Caspak developed its own evolutionary process from the rest of life on Earth. On Caspak dinosaurs roam and I’m pretty sure the first animal our heroes encounter is cousin to the Loch Ness monster.
This island is as beautiful as it is deadly with a giant inland lake, streams, cliffs, and hundreds of species of plant life.
“All about us was a flora and fauna as strange and wonderful to us as might have been those upon a distant planet…” Each story is framed differently; the first being read from a message in a bottle sent from the hopelessly trapped Bowen Taylor; the second was written as a memoir told after the fact by Tom Billings who gets lost on Caspak in a rescue attempt; the third book is told in third person about the adventures and misfortunes of a group of the original crew to land on Caspak.
Besides the change in set up and narrator the stories all read pretty much the same. Our heroes are all endlessly talented, clever men who are just dorky enough with woman to make them somewhat endearing.
“I have never been a ladies’ man…” -Bowen Taylor, The Land That Time Forgot
“I have never been what one might call a ladies’ man…I think that I rather appeal to a certain type of girl for the reason that I never make love to them; I leave that to the numerous others who do it infinitely better than I could hope to…”- Tom Billings, The People that Time Forgot
The differences in them are so slight they may as well be nonexistent. I didn’t dislike any of them for this though all share one negative trait; their constant patronizing of the woman they each end up adventuring with, because of course these are “love” stories.
Each hero is paired with a damsel in distress (for that is the bread and butter of adventure stories) whom he can rescue, protect, and fall hopelessly in love with even though he fights against it with all his manly might at first. I wouldn’t be so offended by this classic trope if the woman were written as incapable, then at least it wouldn’t be so offensive when the men refer to them as “Little girl” and fo on endlessly about how they can’t do anything for themselves because it would at least be true. That isn’t the case though; these woman are smart, quick on their feet, and good with a weapon. They each save their man at least once with cunning, or in one case a well placed arrow. They are brave in the face of certain death and usually more knowledgeable about the landscape and circumstances than their male counterpart and they are constantly. Being. Patronized. It doesn’t make me angry at the writing so much as the men themselves; they’re assholes. Stop it.
Yet the woman love their men with puppy dog devotion. “What you wish, I wish” –Co-Tan, Out of Times Abyss.
The only other issue I had with this series was the all out abuse of the Just in Time trope. It became difficult to feel any suspense knowing that some beautiful coincidence was going to save the day soon. Or at the last moment our hero is going gain the ability to hit a a swear hurdling towards his “she” with a bullet, stopping it in its tracks. It makes it hard to read these books for any length of time without a break because you keep seeing the same thing over and over and over again.
In all though you can’t really complain that a novel that laid the groundwork for those sorts of tropes is being tropey. They weren’t cliche at the time after all.
All things considered I enjoyed my time spent reading these books. They are funny, action packed, and straight up weird. Also there’s a dog. His name is Nobs and he’s the best character. I’m not kidding. This dog is loyal, and brave, he develops as a character more than most of the humans. By the end of the books he is as comfortable ripping apart a dinosaur and eating its raw flesh as he is getting belly scratches.
3.5 stars– I liked it but it didn’t keep me up at nights