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Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface
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Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  199 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Beliefs in mysterious underworlds are as old as humanity. But the idea that the earth has a hollow interior was first proposed as a scientific theory in 1691 by Sir Edmond Halley (of comet fame), who suggested that there might be life down there as well. Hollow Earth traces the surprising, marvelous, and just plain weird permutations his ideas have taken over the centuries ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 3rd 2007 by Da Capo Press (first published July 10th 2006)
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(showing 1-30)
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Ian Tregillis
I was optimistic when I said this was a little dry. And I'll say up front that I'm being unfair, because I'd picked this up in the hopes of finding a reading experience similar to that offered by In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and The Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language, which is setting the bar pretty damn high.

I have a soft spot for books about quirky real-life topics, and a fascination with the personalities behind paranoi
Jan 29, 2013 Donna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, didnt-finish
It's a fascinating subject, but somehow the tone managed to be both too dry and too flip at the same time. The author buried interesting concepts under heaps of unnecessary detail, and attempts to break up all that plodding dullness with things like "longitude was a bitch" really put me off.

I love both wacky historical beliefs and hollow earth adventure lit, but I realized pretty quickly that this book and I just aren't compatible. Eventually I flipped straight to the Edgar Rice Burroughs chapte
Jun 09, 2008 Tom rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
Meh. Great idea, bad execution. There's some fascinating stuff in the book but for some reason the author decided to take a tone of "can you believe these guys? only a fucking idiot would think there is a civilization at the center of the earth" instead of looking at them as products of their time. I'm not looking for some scholarly monograph, but often the author was a little too glib (the main problem is that he slides between serious, scholarly tone and a lazy blog-like tone, often in the sam ...more
Joseph Teller
When Edmond Halley, the namesake of Halley's comet, stood before the London Royal Society in 1691 and announced that the World was Hollow, he could not have begun to realize the ramifications of what his scientific proposal would mean to history or literature.

The Hollow Earth is a volume about this scientific misstep that would take centuries to disprove (and to a die hard few will never be accepted as an error).

But if Halley hadn't made his mistakes (and successes in related theories), we may
_Hollow Earth_ by David Standish is a history of the hollow Earth idea.

The scientist Edmund Halley, of Halley's comet fame, was a proponent of the idea. A second strain of imagining about the hollow Earth was in fantastic fiction; the idea appeared in the works of famous genre writers such as Poe, Verne, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Also, the time--roughly-- from 1865 to 1910, saw an increase in the number of hollow Earth novels in the US. The writers of these novels used the idea of a hollow Earth
This is a fascinating and fun history of the idea of a Hollow Earth -- that is, the idea that inside the Earth is another world, possibly one with utopian civilizations and riches beyond humankind's wildest dreams. The author tackles the subject matter with considerable humor, and is at his best when describing and commenting on the various Hollow Earth narratives that have been written throughout the years, from Journey to the Center of the Earth to Tarzan at the Earth's Core and beyond. The ch ...more
Mick Glasgow
Jun 13, 2008 Mick Glasgow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Standish's book gives a thorough and lightly skeptical review of the Hollow Earth phenomena. This is a good way to discover what most Hollow Earth novels are about without reading them. In depth biographies of the major lecturers and authors gives a complete picture however it does not thoroughly address the Buddhist Hollow Earth theory of Aghartha.
Hannah Givens
A short, readable history of a cool fringe topic. Lots of book excerpts -- super liked the way it mixed history of fiction and science, they're always mixed but this is a particularly clear connection.
May 16, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, weirdness
[my review from the September 2006 issue of FATE magazine]

Last month, FATE featured a reprinted article on the Koreshans of Estero, Florida, an early-20th-century cult distinguished mainly by their belief that the Earth was a hollow sphere upon whose inner concave surface we all live. An odd cosmology, to be sure, but these followers of the former Cyrus Teed were hardly the first believers in a hollow earth. Journalist David Standish presents a history of the subterranean theme in science, pseud
May 12, 2015 Justin rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Heading into this, I was expecting there to be more about the crackpot theories of a hollow Earth, that have survived into the present day. While this is touched upon, it's very brief: really, only the last four pages of the book.

The rest of Hollow Earth is spent examining central figures throughout history who've held to the belief that there's another world beneath the Earth's crust. There's mini-biographies on Symmes, Teed, and others who truly believed in this stuff, as well as examinations
Jan 26, 2017 Taylor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book for the purpose I had in mind: a miscellany of bizarre Hollow Earth theories, events, key figures, and literary tie-ins.

The tone is well-balanced. The book humors early theories as misguided products of their time (the model of plate techtonics didn't emerge until the 1960s, so 17th century thinkers can be excused for using a few odd theories to explain inconsistent compass readings and the like). But there is obvious (and to my thinking appropriate) author eye-rolling at more recent
Jonathan Abbott
Finally finished this book after like 3 months of off and on reading it. It partly took so long because I was reading a RPG book at the same time.

I found this book to be too dry and scholarly. I know, it is a non-fiction book that should give me that impression just by looking at it. But I was really hoping for a bunch of crazy stuff and crackpot theories and Nazis and dinosaurs. There was some of this, but not until the last chapter.

The majority of the book looks at the various intellectuals,
Sep 30, 2012 Laylah rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Does what it says on the tin! This is pretty much a survey of the literature, discussing the history of the hollow earth idea from Halley (of comet fame) through contemporary fringe websites. Along the way, Standish points out how the hollow earth idea has been a convenient blank space for people who wanted to project their thoughts about what was wrong (or right) with society at the time, and how the content of a hollow earth narrative changed as scientific understanding did likewise. Interesti ...more
Alan Loewen
Mar 12, 2013 Alan Loewen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a true believer in the existence of a vast hollow interior of the planet on which we live, you will be very disappointed in this book. David Standish is not a believer and many times he breaks the fourth wall as an author to drive that point home.

However, if you are interested in how the theory of a hollow Earth came about and, most importantly, are interested in how that belief saw itself worked out in literature throughout the ages, then you will enjoy this book very much.

Highly opi
Apr 10, 2013 Scotch rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty thoroughly research, and I definitely appreciated Standish's wit and personality (because – really – it's a pleasure to read an author say someone is "just dumb" and call it like it is). I learned some wonky bits of US history that I likely would have never stumbled upon otherwise, and found an addendum to my minivan's name (once Spaceship Betty; now Spaceship Betty, Glorious Annihilator of Time and Space, Lord of Distance, Imperial Courier). The book drags a bit towards the end, drifting ...more
Pablo Flores
Mar 14, 2015 Pablo Flores rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book achieves the difficult combination of being both entertaining and well-researched. Before starting it I almost put it down because I'd just read a lot about the Hollow Earth topic, but in fact it had nothing to do with what Standish brings to the table. The writing is easy-going and yet precise; it doesn't drop names or places without putting them into a context, allowing the reader to learn about much more than the wild theories or bad book arguments about the Hollow Earth and its der ...more
Dec 13, 2014 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cons: Academic in writing style. Some chapters go into greater detail than I was able to appreciate.

Pros: Thorough descriptions and summaries of both the history of the hollow earth theory, in its many variations, and of several books (out of numerous fictional works listed, and a couple of earlier serious works). This work comes across like a reference book with a sense of humor, and offers more citations than I plan to follow-up reading.

Bonus: Reproduced graphics (e.g. photos, book covers, mo
Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)
Excellent book! I've been fascinated by hollow earth theory since I read Journey to the Center of the Earth when I was about 10, but I honestly had no idea for years that it was such an extensive belief. Standish breaks down the early scientists and later sci-fi authors and cultists (yes, cultists) who followed the hollow earth theory and gives plenty of awesome and funny commentary on both. My only issue was the very ending. I thought it a bit abrupt, but the other 300 some odd pages were well ...more
Paul O'Leary
Much like the other reviewers I picked this one up with high hopes. Well, maybe just low flying ones, but I was intrigued and bought it on a flight of whimsy. I thought at the least it would be an entertaining read. Maybe I should think less--or more. The material was bland, not really engaging, as if something were missing.... Entertainment value, perhaps. Just with the subject matter alone one expects a lighthearted and fun read. The chapters just fall flat. I'm relieved I'm not the only one.. ...more
May 01, 2009 Caleb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A rather thorough (but not exhaustively so) survey of the concept of a hollow earth, from 17th century science to 19th century crackpottery to 20th century pop culture. Standish pulls back a bit when it comes to modern day hollow earth belief, not wading too deeply into what's in the Internet, but the material would certainly get too repetetive too quickly if he did. I particularly enjoyed learning about Koreshanity, which I had never heard of before.
Feb 10, 2012 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A not-so serious look at some of the more common Hollow Earth theories out there, with a strong emphasis on fictional literature. Some parts of the book were clearly meant to be humorous, but the humor was geared toward making light of beliefs of people, without any real consideration of historical context. Still, a moderately enjoyable read. I do wish there had been more emphasis of Hollow Earth theory from mid-century to present day, rather than one small chapter at the very end.
Aug 05, 2007 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs and sci fi fans
after finishing my work at the Newberry, this is a wonderful transition from historic maps to summer fluff reading. it traces beliefs about what lay at the center of the earth from about 1660 (founding of the Royal Society in England) to the present day with a focus on both science and pop culture. Standish is an informal writer who moves between funny asides and scientific explanations with ease.

Fun read.
Steve Wiggins
Aug 09, 2015 Steve Wiggins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the history of weird ideas, the hollow earth has an amazing longevity. Standish does a good idea of showing how the concept revives from time to time, but never really dies out. This is an interesting look from several points of view, including those of fiction and science, as well as religion. For more thoughts about the book see: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Jan 22, 2009 Glenn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining introduction to a silly notion that has been played with in fiction, considered by science, dreamed of by utopians, and promoted by crackpots. Standish takes a fairly lighthearted approach to his topic, which I suppose is pretty reasonable. This is probably not the last word on the topic, but it's a decent read.
May 22, 2012 Violet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sci-fi
Great title, interesting book jacket, but it was like reading a dull review of Jules Vern and Journey to the Center of the Earth numerous times with a slightly different angle each time. Did the author really have to list how may books were written in a certain time period and then practically review each book? This book will be easy to forget.
May 18, 2008 Cooper rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well written, but not too engaging. The subject matter is quiet interesting, but I think a long article would have suited the subject for anyone with a casual interest in stories and theories of the hollows of our planet Earth.
Sarah Gerard
Writing an essay about this right now. Fascinating concept. This is a helpful, easily read source of information. I've been burying myself in it here and there.
Jamie Stanton Stanton
Wonderful tour through the fringes of human belief.
Carolee Wheeler
I felt the author was terribly condescending. Yeah, yeah, we know you're Awfully smart and all of these hollow-earth dudes were rubes, but that attitude gets old.
Julia rated it really liked it
Jan 02, 2008
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