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A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  111 reviews
With its curious mixture of adventure, natural history and satire this early Canadian novel has become a landmark work of fantasy and science fiction.
Paperback, 460 pages
Published January 15th 1986 by McGill-Queen's University Press (first published 1888)
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Scribble Orca
Feb 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perusing the Library shelves for Fernando del Paso and landing at DEM with the words A STRANGE MANUSCRIPT FOUND leaping at the eye. Blurb on the back mentioning four readers of a manuscript (shades of metalepsis?), satire, pioneering, Canadian academic (1833 - 1880) mostly known for (t)his posthumous novel. Baited, hooked, book borrowed.

Later comment from an occasional online chat aQuaint Ants: "yawn", after describing the blurb. Undeterred, flicking open to the last page to find first publicati
J.G. Keely
The problem with most Utopianists, as game designer Ken Levine points out, is that they don’t take into account the nature of humanity. Instead, they lay an ideal on top of humanity, and because it is a nice idea, just assume that it will just automatically smooth everything out. But, of course, the world has always been full of nice ideas, and despite that fact, greed, ignorance, brutality, and lust always end up getting in the way.

But then, the Utopianists were some of the first fantasists, au
Tyrannosaurus regina
Because this is believed to be the first work of Canadian speculative fiction, and because it has an oddly awesome title, I really wanted to love this. And there are moments of great imagination, but mostly it talks in circles, lectures, and never quite thinks through the implications of the society it sets up, taking the easy and obvious route every time. Plus, period-accurate but no less appalling for it racism and sexism. What I ended up liking best was the framing story, the boatload of what ...more
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book's history is at least as interesting as its content. This dystopian novel was actually written before Butler's Erehwon, but it was published posthumously by his wife. De Mille wrote to his brother (I believe it was) that he was not satisfied with the book's denouement - that is why he never published it.
It has certainly received a varied reception, but enjoyed a renewed popularity when it was compared to more post-modern writers - the framing narrative is the least characteristic of it
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This 1888 tale appears to be the first novel to feature dinosaurs in a recognizable form. If it had mostly been about dinosaurs or had more scenes with dinosaurs, I might have liked it more. What we have here is essentially a "Lost World" story in which a group of yachtsmen find the title manuscript in a copper cylinder, read it aloud to themselves and comment upon it.

In the manuscript, sailor Adam More goes hunting in the Antarctic and gets separated from his ship. He has several adventures unt
Thom Swennes
Dec 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fantasy lovers
This is actually a book within a book. With this uninspiring and enigmatic title doesn't do justice to this story by the Canadian born writer James De Mille (1833-1880). An unsuspecting reader would soon think it an unknown or forgotten work of Jules Verne as it combines many of his intriguing subjects and ideas. A copper cylinder is found floating in the Caribbean Sea by vacationing Englishmen. In this cylinder a manuscript is found (from the title this story up to this point could be deducted ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi
Just as the title says this tale is really strange. We begin with the story of four yatchsmen who, upon deciding to have a paper boat race come upon, as the books title says, a copper cylinder. Well they all take turns reading the manuscript therein which relates the apparent adventures of a sailor called Adam More who after being shipwrecked in Antarctica and upon entering some subterranean tunnel happens upon a world of prehistoric animals and plants coupled with a death worshipping cult...
Review of A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder, 1888, by James De Mille

Missed the mark.

The title was the hook. And I stand by it as being a great one. And the premise promised much, too. A story within a story as four friends combat the boredom of their privileged lives by setting sail around the Canary Islands and the Azores. While becalmed, they make paper boats for a race to combat yet more boredom, and so discover the mysterious floating cylinder.

So far so frame story.

The document
Chris H-C
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Parts "Princess of Mars", "The Lost World", "Gulliver's Travels", and more, this was an interesting read.

That being said, holy crap people were open about their prejudices in the 1880s. The sexism and racism kept rearing up. It's probably best to take that as a product of the age it was written.

I'm of mixed opinion about the use of the framing device of the four indolent men becalmed on their yacht. I liked the half of their role that was as a sardonic, four-part Greek chorus. I wasn't as fond o
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one took a couple of false starts before I got into it. I thought I knew just about every lost world novel, but hadn't come across James De Mille before, possibly because he is viewed as a Canadian writer. Published posthumously in 1888 as a series in Harper's Weekly, this apparently Canadian classic tale of an underground Antarctic civilization compares with Poe's Pym of 1838. The frame story is formed by bored friends who find the account written in papyrus in the cylinder of the title. O ...more
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Four yachtsmen sailing out of Madeira discover the titular manuscript which relates a strange tale of a lost world at the South Pole. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle definitely owes a debt to this work, but A Strange Manuscript... is more allegorical and less entertaining than Conan Doyle's pulp classic.

Too much of the story is devoted to the cave-dwelling cannibalistic Antarctic inhabitants' nihilistic philosophy of life, which somehow manages to make a story of a secret world inhabited bo
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille

Consisting of 203 pages across 31 well presented chapters in this edition. The story flows reasonably well, but perhaps it's reading might feel dated to some being a Victorian work.

The perspective of the work moves between a group of 'gentleman' enjoying a pleasure cruise on a yacht, and the characters in a collection of papers sealed in a copper cylinder these gentleman find at sea.

Dialogue is interesting and the author obviously
Liz Polding
More Swift than Conan Doyle, although far less savage than Swift - this is no Modest Proposal - this is well-crafted, although the ending is a bit abrupt. A clever examination of a society where virtue and piety are taken to such extremes that they become vices and perversions. The device of the aristocratic sailing party works reasonably well, although the characters in this aspect of the story are essentially just there to link the story together and speculate on the science. They are the lear ...more
Patrick St-Amand
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
***3.25 stars***

Keeping in mind how old this is I rather kind of enjoyed it though it does read a bit unevenly. There are some rather dark moments (cannibalism and worshippers of death) and of course some of the science seems dated but other then in the middle the pace was pretty good. The idea of a people who are polar opposites (you'll get the pun if you read the synopsis) is not new but it does raise some interesting moral questions.
Benjamin Elliott
The narrative of the castaway in the lands of the south pole was interesting on the whole, but nothing special. The interludes of the people on the boat become worse and worse each time they appear.
Dec 28, 2020 rated it liked it
After finding out that this was Canada’s first work of science fiction/fantasy I really wanted to read it.
It starts of a little slow but does pick up. I really wished that there was more analysis from the “present day” characters as I feel like so much was missed. The story of Adam More as he comes upon a group of people whose beliefs are completely opposite to Western culture (prefer death to life etc), offers great philosophical insights as well as social satire. However, I feel like the endin
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it
A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder is a fun, light little adventure novel. The base narrative is as typical as serialized pulp adventure gets; the heroic European in a strange land that must use his wits to survive; an exotic romance devoid of any concrete sexuality or eroticism; fantastic monsters; horror and appalling practices from the "savages." Overall, an exceptionally standard literary stew comprised of 19th century adventure ingredients.

The "strange manuscript", comprising t
Norman Cook
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
This has one of the worst titles ever, one that doesn't do justice to the rollicking lost-world adventure within. It was published after De Mille's death, and was unjustly criticized on publication as being derivative of H. Rider Haggard, when in fact, it was written prior to Haggard’s breakthrough novels. It was also undoubtedly an influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs, with the exotic locale, strange social customs, and romance between a “normal” man and an "alien" woman that were staples of Burro ...more
D.M. Dutcher
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopia
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
The premise of the story is interesting and worth a read. I liked the author's "world-building" even though it is implausible (especially so late after the era of discovery; one could see these kinds of fantastical things being conjured up in 1480, not 1880 based on our knowledge of geography, geology, and meteorology by then). There is a Jules Verne-esque style to the world depicted and to the rather liner adventure overall, but the story is implemented with slightly less quality than Verne wou ...more
Shaoqing Chen
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
De Mille offers us a strange manuscript indeed with his unusual satirical take on that time worn classic, stranded sailors uncovering hitherto unknown societies in hidden locales beyond impassable geographical features and dangers multitudinous. A group of wealthy Englishmen on a yachting trip discover a copper tube floating in the ocean; fishing it out and prying it open presents them – and us – with Adam More's tales of adventure on several sheets of papyrus. More, of course, was separated fro ...more
Stella Lee
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this because it was in one of those top 100 books to read lists, and it's free. There were some bits that kept my attention but this one is good to go to sleep by. I would classify it as a romance. It's got some quaint ideas about what might have been hiding in the unexplored areas of our planet. It's supposedly a '...landmark work of fantasy and science fiction.' however it's not in my favourites list. ...more
Patrick Gibson
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
This was the last novel in one of those megapacks that bundles like-type theme books. In this case: 'The Lost World.' I almost skipped it because of the curious title. But, it is actually not a bad read; it's a mixture of travelogue. natural science (a la 1820) and action/adventure. Apparently it was a big hit in the 19th century. Good for a rainy day when you have nothing else to read. Or are snowbound; or stuck on a desert island; or marooned on Mars. ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: satire
I tried to describe this book to somebody and I told them it was like H. Rider Haggard crossed with Gulliver's Travels. That doesn't quite get it, but that is as close as I can get. It isn't quite as awesome as that sounds either. I enjoyed the satire elements and how it turned the adventure story cliches on their ear but its still got long stretches that are very boring. ...more
Damien Sanchez
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was a short fun read, some reviews seem to critical of the book. I read an article that referenced it and I was curious to read it, so I looked it up and read it on my kindle. It was to fun to read something written over 120 years ago. This book, and after reading some reviews, has turned me onto a number of other books in this genre, I’m picking up Gulliver’s Travels next.
Cooper Rayes
Not bad, bit long winded.

It's really well written, his descriptions are really good and it makes it easy to imagine what the author is picturing. But when you get too the and, is feels... like there is something missing. Why did it not give another fun discussion between the chaps on the boat? Would i recommend it? Really hard to say...yes? Maybe. -_-
Wilde Sky
A manuscript detailing a bizarre world is found in a floating tube.

Some of the writing / ideas were good, but the story really didn't hang together.

Word count around 85,000 - reading time approximately 6 hours.
May 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: goodbye
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a great novel in the lost world/lost race subgenre. Four gentlemen on a yacht find a copper cylinder floating in the water. Said cylinder contains a sailor's account of how he and a comrade strayed off on an adventure in the Antarctic sea. What follows is a thoroughly absorbing adventure with a satiric bite. I won't say any more about it -- just read it! Trust me! ...more
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James De Mille was a professor at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, and an early Canadian popular writer who published numerous works of popular fiction from the late 1860s through the 1870s.

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