Book Review: Pellucidar

With this sequel to At the Earth’s Core, Edgar Rice Burroughs brings us back to the hollow Earth for the further adventures of David Innes and friends.  Though there are further books set in Pellucidar, the first two novels work together to create one complete story.  By the end of this book, David’s tale could easily be complete.

There’s more world building and exploration in this one.  David is forced to travel far and wide, meeting lots of new people and facing new monsters.  Of course, he’s still trying to get hold of Dian the Beautiful, and the circumstances that keep them apart continue to stretch credibility more than anything in the fantastical world.  I kept being reminded of when I watched the first couple seasons of the TV series 24 where after Jack’s daughter was kidnapped for the second time in a day and his wife got amnesia, I felt things were getting perhaps a touch ridiculous.

It isn’t hyperbole to call this Imperialist Fantasy.  The characters literally talk about how superior they are to the people they’ve met, how they are duty bound to bring the natives “civilization,” and how only David has what it takes to be their leader.  This sort of thing is often done in adventure books of the era, but I haven’t often seen it so explicitly stated.  There’s no subtlety.  David will bring them guns and government…but of course, he’ll do it right.  Not like those jerks from the surface world.

I enjoyed a lot about this second book, if for no other reason than it was a bit less formulaic than the first.  Burroughs knew how to start an adventure series, and in a lot of ways, he did it the same way each time.  The first book of John Carter, Carson Napier, David Innes, and the unnamed narrator from Beyond the Farthest Star all hit familiar notes.  American guy is doing something else, some outlandish accident happens, he finds himself in a strange world.  There are monsters and villains, new friends, and a beautiful woman who instantly falls in love with him (and he with her).  Through superior strength and some cleverness, he triumphs, but something keeps him away from the girl…leading to the next book.  Book two is where things tend to get more interesting and varied.

It really seems like Burroughs was planning to call it a day on this series.  The ending of the book definitely feels like an ending.  I laughingly thought of the end of The Lord of the Rings, where the climax happens, but the book keeps going and going.  The wind-down goes on for a while, making things feel pretty solidly wrapped up by the end.  I’m not sure when I’ll get around to reading whatever the next book set in Pellucidar will be.  Is it the Tarzan one?  I don’t know.  One of these days.

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