Saturday, June 13, 2015

Retro Reviews: The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Lost Continent
Author:  Edgar Rice Burroughs
Original Publisher and Date:  Street & Smith Publications, Inc., 1916
Still in Print:  Yes
Current Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Mass Market Paperback, and eBook
Availability:  Online and in book stores
ISBN:  various including 9781600961502 (Waking Lion Press, August 17, 2006)

Brief History

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago on September 1, 1875 and died in Encino, CA on March 19, 1950. His father was a civil war veteran. In 1911, Burroughs was working as a pencil-sharpener wholesaler when he began to write fiction. In 1912, Burroughs had his first story, Under the Moons of Mars, serialized in The All-Story from February to July 1912. Tarzan is his most famous character with John Carter close behind. There is a Tarzana, California and a Tarzan, TX both named after the character. Burroughs has written over 80 books in many different genres, including Science-Fiction, Adventure, Westerns, Romance and even Historical. Ray Bradbury said of Burroughs in The Paris Review Spring 2010 No. 192, “I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special. That’s what we have to do for everyone, give the gift of life with our books.”

The Lost Continent was originally published in the February 1916 issue of All-Around Magazine and titled Beyond Thirty. In 1955, the first book edition was printed by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach's Fantasy Press fanzine. In 1963, ACE printing published the book as The Lost Continent. Bison Books published their own edition in 2001 under the original name. The copyright of this book has expired and is in public domain.

Back Cover Description

For two hundred years, a civilized America had cut off all contact with the war-ruined Eastern Hemisphere until such places as Europe and Great Britain had become mere legends.

Then Jefferson Turck dared take his U.S. Aero-sub across the 30th longitude west on the mission of a new Columbus, and a fascinating voyage of discovery.

Brannigan's Review

I've read Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan of the Apes and loved it. I've been eying the Barsoom (John Carter of Mars) series, but then at this year's WonderCon in Anaheim I sat in on a Burrough's panel and they mentioned The Lost Continent and it grabbed my attention. I was happy to find it at my local used book store. It's a short book, but it holds a rich story.

The back cover is a little misleading, so I'll give a quick story recap. The book is what we now refer to as an Alternate History story, which is a sub-genre under the Science Fiction genre. It explores the idea of what would happen if America didn't get involved in Word War I, and, by staying neutral, England, Germany, and most of Eurasia is completely destroyed. In fact, America is so neutral they close off any contact east past the 30th longitude west and west of the 175th longitude west. This isolation lasts for 200 years, making the current year 2137. Jefferson Turck is the captain of an Aero-sub that's on patrol in the Atlantic when a nasty storm leaves his ship with no power, and it drifts past the 30th longitude, which is strictly illegal and in enforced with a death penalty. Turck and a few sailors, after several misfortunes, get separated from their ship and are left with no choice but to take their smaller boat to England in search of aid. Then, the real adventures begin.

Burroughs is a master of creating suspense and giving a sense of wonder to his world. He's able to quickly breathe life into his world and main characters. He has a gift of knowing just how much backstory and personality he needs to give a main character to help the reader connect to them. That being said, all the supporting cast of characters are only names and sex, but I didn't care as I knew they weren't important—in fact, they knew it as well and stayed out of the way, only popping up to deliver bad news or offer minor support. I have to give Burroughs some credit for his female character, Victory. She was a very strong and independent female character for a book that came out in 1916. She still has some of those basic stock issues of being a little helpless at times and needing the love of a strong man, but she does wield a wicked dagger with skill several times, so props to Burroughs.

The story itself was very interesting. Burroughs came up with some great ideas on how a world might look after a devastating war. The story took a couple turns I didn't see coming, and I was drawn into it quickly and stayed invested until the end.

The Lost Continent is a perfect break from epic overload. It makes me wish we still had authors putting out short novels that still held a quality story. I'd recommend this book to youth and adults. There is minor violence, no language and only implied sexual situations. If you're a Burroughs fan, I'd recommend you buy a copy. Otherwise, I recommend you borrow the book from a friend or library. It's the perfect book for fans of Alternate History and anyone who likes a quick adventure.

Favorite quotes from the book

“To remain at sea is to perish. None of us ever will see home again. Let us make the best of it, and enjoy while we do live that which is forbidden the balance of our race---the adventure and mystery which lie beyond thirty.” Turck, page 31.

“[T]hough I had no wish to die, I must confess that I rather wished the ordeal over and the peace of oblivion upon me.” Turck, page 74.

“Those who did not fight were the only ones to reap any of the rewards that are supposed to belong to victory. The combatants reaped naught but annihilation. You have seen—better than any man you must realize that there was no victory for any nation embroiled in that frightful war.” Chinese Emperor, page 140.


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