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Pellucidar #5

Back to the Stone Age

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The fifth installment of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar series, Back to the Stone Age recounts the strange adventures of Lieutenant von Horst, a member of the original crew that sailed to Pellucidar with Jason Gridley and Tarzan who is left behind in the inner world. Von Horst wanders friendless and alone from one danger to the next among the Stone Age peoples, mighty reptiles, and huge animals that have been extinct on the outer crust for thousands of years. But woven among the tales of savage cave men in the country of the Basti, the hideous Gorbuses in the caverns beneath the Forest of Death, and the terrible Gaz is the story of the love this cultured hero feels for a barbarian slave girl who has spurned and discouraged him, working instead toward her own mysterious goal.

The eternal noonday sun of Pellucidar looked down upon such a scene as the outer crust of earth may not have witnessed for countless ages past, such a scene as only the inner world of the earth's core may produce today.

336 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1937

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About the author

Edgar Rice Burroughs

1,467 books2,481 followers
Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author, best known for his creation of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic John Carter, although he produced works in many genres.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,500 reviews32 followers
August 9, 2022
Great fast paced action and adventure from cover to cover but then what else do you expect when you start an ERB take. Always a fun read. Recommended
Profile Image for Tom Cole.
Author 40 books9 followers
January 2, 2013
This book, originally called Seven Worlds to Conquer is a wonderful read. Burroughs introduces some stuff that he forgets to get back to, but it’s still a lot of fun. This takes place in Pellucidar, the center of the earth filled with prehistoric creatures, one of which is a pterodactyl-like critter that behaves like a giant tarantula hawk and paralyzes its prey for its hatchlings to eat as their first dinner. There’s a dash of romance in it, a noble mammoth, and a lot of great fights and caveman talk. The ending quote is as good as Sam's saying "Well, I'm back." in The Lord of the Rings."
Profile Image for Stanley Brookoff.
Author 1 book3 followers
November 14, 2016
It still amazes me how Edgar Rice Burroughs was able to make the most fantastic plots and stories seem real while you read them. The stories absorb you. The high point in Edgar Rice Burroughs stories is his power of description. It is as if you are watching a movie while you read. BACK TO THE STONE AGE is no exception.
Profile Image for Jim.
94 reviews4 followers
December 7, 2012
The Pelliucidar series is my favorite series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I used to walk to Grand Central and gather bottles along the side of the road. I would be able to collect enough bottles and turn them in for the deposit for the next book in this (and all of his series)series of books!
Profile Image for Benjamin Chandler.
Author 16 books20 followers
July 12, 2021
It's summertime, so that means I take some time to chill with ERB.

I hadn't read this book in 30 years, so I had little in my mind when I went into it. I remembered the flying marsupial dinosaur, but that was it. (How could one forget a flying marsupial dinosaur, anyway?)

This is a wild, pulpy yarn where ERB throws his protagonist, von Horst, into one bonkers hollow earth scrape after another. The original title of the novel was "Seven Worlds to Conquer", which I think was because von Horst had seven different how-will-he-get-out-of-this-one? situations to beat. Granted, by the 6th situation, I was ready for him to be done with adventuring, but the ride there was pretty wild. Aside from the flying marsupial dinosaur, there's gobs of tribes of unfriendly cave people, stomping mammoths, a nasty juvenile T. rex, guys who are half-man/half-bison, and a feisty blond who simply will not return the protagonist's affection for reasons left unsaid until the last pages. In short, it's typical ERB.

I think the thing that made this book all the more enjoyable was von Horst's sense of humor. Tarzan can be pretty cold—his humor tends to be bone dry—and John Carter is too infatuated with Dejah Thoris to make many jokes. But von Horst spent the whole book making sarcastic quips, all of which no one in Pellucidar understood because, apparently irony hadn't been invented yet. His snark really makes the book.

On a spoilerish note: anyone want to talk about the Gorbuses? ERB usually shied away from supernatural stuff, John Carter's trips to and from Mars and Carson Napier's Hindu telepathy aside, so the Gorbuses, morlock-like people cursed with unexplained memories of being murderers, seem out of place. Are they reincarnated folks punished for their previous life's misdeeds? Is their forest some form of hell or limbo? I had trouble matching them with the "logic"* that ERB tended to write by, finally deciding that they, like John Carter, simply bounced from one world to another. My explanation will have to do for now.

*I know, flying marsupial dinosaurs in a hollow earth do not need much logic, but albinos with thoughts of past lives just didn't seem to fit.
Profile Image for Chompa.
664 reviews53 followers
August 29, 2017
I think Lt. von Horst might be my favorite character in all of the Pellucidar books so far. He's a German Lieutentant from the airship that Jason Gridley brought down. He was separated from the rest at the start of the 4th book and this is his story.

Von (as he's called by his dream girl La Ja) is a smart ass and always quipping, which is a huge departure from the other stoic heroes of ERB. La Ja despairs his always "laughing with words" and can't tell when he's serious or not.

A very fun read.

Profile Image for Chris Adams.
Author 9 books14 followers
November 18, 2021
I first encountered the Pellucidar series by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a young kid when I purchased the novel, Land of Terror, the next-to-last volume in the series, out of a grocery store spinner. Eventually, I tracked down all 7 titles and was able to read them in order, and Back to the Stone Age (1937) became my favorite and one that I would frequently reread.

Fast Forward >> two or three decades; I haven't read that old favorite for many years. I can tell you it was with great anticipation that I made my way thru the series recently until I hit book 5.

Back to the Stone Age is the story of Frederich Wilhelm Eric von Mendeldorf und von Horst, one of the crewmen of the famous dirigible, The O-220, who became lost in Tarzan at the Earth's Core. The story of von Horst is a romance/adventure story. I've read that ERB created the characters of both von Horst and the hero of Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928), Erich von Harben, to appease German wrath after he harangued them so terribly during/after the Great War. However that may be, both of these stalwart heroes are indeed German, and von Horst in particular is a veritable Tarzan.

I couldn't say precisely what it is about this particular story that I find so appealing; it has many of the same attributes that others of the members of the Pellucidar series share -- derring-do, romance, adventure, wild beasts, interesting tribes, monsters. Stone Age has a crazy, flying creature that uses its tongue to paralyze its victims which it then takes into a deep mounded burrow where it lays them in a circle from which its hatchlings feed upon them after breaking free of their shells.

The romance comes about after von Horst meets La-ja who nearly from the first repulses the man. Through a series of humorous encounters with the girl who believes von Horst (whom she calls simply "Von") is making fun of her when he is really simply bringing to bear a light-hearted sense of humor and the many modernisms which came with him to Pellucidar from the surface, the German gradually comes to a realization that he is in love with the girl, who in turn is fearful of his safety and attempts to desert him at every opportunity to prevent his being killed by one who wishes to mate with her and who is famous for killing anything that moves . . . the redoubtable Gaz.

There are many similarities between von Horst's character and Tarzan, not the least of which is his befriending a veritable behemoth of a mammoth called Old White. This aspect in particular greatly reminds one of the scenes with Tarzan and Tantor, especially when Old White rescues von Horst from the Mammoth Men, shades of Tantor's rescue of both Tarzan and Korak in various novels.

The novel is filled with a plentitude of odd races and beings . . . the bellowing Bison Men known as ganaks, the Gorbuses who possess fleeting memories of lives on the surface but who are now repulsive flesh-eaters in Pellucidar, etc.

All of von Horst's many adventures all lead toward a culmination between himself and Gaz, the giant who wishes to take La-ja for his mate. Gaz is a killer, a fearsome one, and so it is fitting that, just like some caveman of old, von Horst must face off with a man whom the woman he loves believes to be an undefeatable brute, instilling in her breast love and respect for von Vorst who is not the type to back down from a challenge--especially when the woman he loves is involved.

The novel isn't perfect, granted. ERB frequently mined his own novels for ideas, IE nearly every Pellucidar novel has a girl fleeing from someone with which she doesn't wish to mate; he uses the "man befriending a mammoth" theme again later in Land of Terror, and every time the hero goes to sleep, he either wakes up and his belongings are missing, or the girl who fell asleep beside him is gone. I should ding it for that, but the long and short of it is that I love the novel despite those shortcomings. At the end of the day, I judge a novel for the enjoyment I get out of it, and Back to the Stone Age is a blast.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Josef Komensky.
200 reviews3 followers
June 8, 2022
Mirek Dusin v Pleciocenu.

Autor slavneho Tarzana mene znama serie dobrodruznych pribehu, odehravajici se v jakesi v podstate blyze nijak zvlast popsane stredozemi ( nezamenovat prosim s tou zemi Hobbitu z Pana Prstenu ) Kde je vecny den a vecny pravek.

Hrdina bez bazne a hany sdluhyn nemeckym primenim ??! Se shodou okolnosti ztratil v tomhle svete a jenucen se Sam o sebe postarat, ale jelikoz je to nejenom chlapik ciperny ale navic uzasny dobrak dari se mu svoji dobrotou, intelligenci i duvtipem ziskavat jednoho kamarada za druhym a i na zviratka dojde ....samozrejme i na krasnou tajemnou protivnou Blondynku ...ach Ti Nemci. Ende gut alles Gut :-))
Profile Image for AndrewP.
1,384 reviews32 followers
November 27, 2015
Basically a side novel to resolve the fate of one of the characters who was on the dirigible O-220. Frederich Wilhelm Eric von Mendeldorf und von Horst (thankfully shortened to 'von Horst' or just 'von' for most of the book) was lost during the previous book and this is his tale.

It's a typical pulp area story in that it's broken down into a number of short adventures with a cliff hanger at the end of each section. Von Horst pursues the native girl La-Ja and in the process is captured several time by various tribes. Of course he always escapes and lives to reach the happy end of the book.

The title comes from the way von Horsts character changes through the book. He starts out as a civilized 19th Century man but learns the ways and habits of the cave men of Pellucidar.

Not the best in the series and that might explain why it's been out of print for a long time.
Profile Image for Neil.
497 reviews4 followers
June 25, 2010
Not at all bad. The story of Von Horst the German who went missing from the expedition in "Tarzan at the earth's core." The plot is typical Burrough's wandering around a savage world, fighting, remarkable creatures and even more remarkable coincidences.
Although Von Horst certainly isn't as great a character as Tarzan or John Carter he's a pleasant enough hero and La-Ja makes a more than adequate heroine.
Some interesting new flora and fauna I particularly liked the Gorbuses.
Well up to the earlier books in the Pellucidar series, although I understand the next one "Land Of Terror" is especially poor, I'll have to wait and see...
61 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2009
An interesting adventure story. Burroughs does have a talent for creating interesting situations, even if his prose can seem rather awkward and repetitive at times. His earlier books about Pellucidar have seemed to focus more on conquering the natives, but in this one since his protagonist is entirely alone and without his gun it tends to focus more on building friendships and finding common ground.
Profile Image for William Worsham.
17 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2014
Lite lit at its adolescent best. The epitome of pulp fiction. Man out of his element encounters danger, befriends native, allies with native to confront danger, rinse, repeat.

Don't expect much in the way of characterization or back story beyond what was needed to tie it to other books in the series. That being said, if you don't get at least a small kick out of it, you probably don't need to be reading ERB or his pulp contemporaries to begin with.
Profile Image for Bryan457.
1,553 reviews22 followers
October 5, 2014
A solitary adventure of a heroic figure who is lost on pellucidar, and follows his love through many adventures.

This is the 1st Pellucidar I read. It was so good, and I liked the character so much, that I was really disappointed in the 1st two Pellucidar books.
Profile Image for Charles J Kilker.
78 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2017
Back to the Stone Age

Having read some of the Pellucidar adventures previously, I knew some of the content. This was a excellent adventure story with a significant love interest thrown in. Definitely recommend it.
6 reviews
August 21, 2017
"500 miles beneath the earth's crust lies a world of eternal day in which cavemen and dinosaurs roam, and terrors forgotten in the modern world still survive". Back to the stone age is set in a land called Pellucidar, where Lieutenant Wilhelm Von Horst finds himself stuck with a tribe of black warriors who don’t even speak English. Back to the stone was written in the 1940s so the language used in it is more diverse than most books but it is still very good.
Von Horst, the protagonist, is a German soldier who somehow gets lost in Pellucidar. He gets separated from his tribesmen, and tries to find them, failing miserably. He makes friends with a Sarian called Dangar in a Trodon pit, and sets off on a journey with him to get to Sari. Finding it was easy, as all Pellucidarians have a homing instinct, just like pigeons, the hard part is getting there.
In Pellucidar, if someone is not of your tribe they're your enemy so you kill them. Von Horst doesn't get why they have to be like this and Dangar understood, but everyone else didn't know why you would be friends or allies with people outside your tribe. Sarian's, like Dangar, did seem to understand and he is accepted as a member of their tribe. Everyone is amazed by his pistol and wants a go with it but when one man, Skruf, ends up shooting himself in the face, they don't want to use it.
Back to the stone age is one of the best books I've ever read because it is thrilling and always full of action.

Profile Image for Rafeeq O..
Author 9 books5 followers
April 17, 2022
Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1937 Back to the Stone Age, fifth in the follow-Earth "Pellucidar" series, is another entertaining installment of pulp fiction. In the previous book, Tarzan at the Earth's Core, Tarzan of the Apes joined Jason Gridley in outfitting and leading a dirigible-borne expedition through an opening near the North Pole into the inner world to rescue David Innes, who at the end of the third book, Tanar of Pellucidar, had been captured by the piratical Korsars. Due to the usual unforeseen misadventures after landing, however, the once-dispersed aeronauts had been fortunate even to regroup and escape with their lives. But Lieutenant Wilhem von Horst... Well, he never turned up.

Once you read enough Burroughs, you realize that a seemingly sloppy loose thread like this actually is something purposefully left for later. Anytime a character disappears, is lost, or is presumed killed in the middle of a tale of Barsoom or Pellucidar--and likely others I haven't yet read as well--don't worry: he'll come back later. The technique may seem a bit cheesy today, but 80 or 100 years ago it was pulp de rigueur. Usually, mind you, Burroughs will move the missing character from behind his hand at some useful and surprising point in the plot of the same book. With von Horst, however, he pushes the man straight off into his own full sequel.

This book, then, follows the quest of von Horst, called "Von" by the Stone Age Pellucidarians, as he searches for the kingdom of Sari, which he knows is the center of the empire of David Innes, the discoverer of the inner world. Unlike the preceding novel, this one is told in third-person limited point of view, generally revealing only what Von himself experiences and thinks rather than head-hopping among a bunch of characters. To me, this POV gives a significantly better read than that of Tarzan at the Earth's Core.

There are carnivorous flying reptiles, and monsters infesting the rivers, and predators of the land, and even giant mammoths which, though herbivorous, can trample by foot or fling by trunk any man hunting them. And there are primitive tribes, too--including cannibalistic ones--constantly at war with any neighbor or stranger. But even as there are savagery and treachery, there also are friendships sealed by self-sacrifice and shared struggles, along with a resulting honor that often surprises the originally xenophobic tribesmen...though not longtime readers of Burroughs, for we have come to expect this somewhat touching aspect.

As usual, there also is a beautiful, obstinate little female whom the central character, doggedly and yet without quite understanding why for the most ridiculously long time, decides to protect, despite her haughty protest and verbal abuse. This one, La-ja, of course is "young and very good[-]looking" and "[u]nlike" members other tribes, "a blond" (Early 1960s Ace paperback, page 50)--of course, since this is prewar pulp fiction. Interestingly, though, Burroughs in his initial description goes much father than he ever has in earlier books, with Von taking note not only of her lovely face but also "her small, firm breasts" (page 51). Quite racy for the time, but we indeed have known since the first novel that the only garment worn in Pellucidar is a loincloth, after all.

In any event, Burroughs' Back to the Stone Age" is a fine example of pulp-fiction adventure, with the usual-for-Burroughs danger piled upon danger, plenty of cliffhangers, and semi-expected coincidences. The book is not particularly deep, except, of course, in its implicit valorizing of steadfastness and honor among friends...which, I would argue, indeed are qualities worth remembering.
Profile Image for Ron.
890 reviews11 followers
May 12, 2019
First read this in my early teens and as I recall, it was one of my favorites in the Pellucidar series. I liked the fact that Burroughs was following up with secondary characters (von Horst) rather than sticking with the initial heroes of the series (David Innes, Perry, and the Tarzan cameo). I've always loved airship stories and I think ERB missed an opportunity by not doing more with the zeppelin. The more I re-read these classics the more ERB's standard formulas jump out at me--the romance, the wandering encounters with 'lost' cities and civilizations, multiple captures and escapes, etc. To my modern sensibilities, they seem more like YA novels or boys' adventure books. But that's just the nature of writing from these early years.
Profile Image for Kenneth.
1,006 reviews43 followers
August 6, 2018
In the previous Pellucidar novel by ERB, Lieutenant von Horst had been lost when the rest of his party left this land inside the hollow earth to return to the outside. This is his story and how he survived, in the best pulp story style. And he wins the love of La-ja, a girl from Sari.
Profile Image for Jacob Wilson.
144 reviews
July 18, 2020
3.5 - This series is hilariously formulaic, and yet something about the world it has created keeps bringing me back to it. This entry was no different, but was bolstered by a strong protagonist and good supporting characters that made for a fun read.
Profile Image for Ana.
32 reviews2 followers
November 20, 2022
He leído la edición de "Barsoom/Costas de Carcosa" con ilustraciones, una maravilla de libro que, como muchos títulos de esta editorial, no figura ni puedo añadir al listado de contenidos de Goodreads.
Profile Image for Eric N..
96 reviews
May 13, 2018
Satisfying Hollow Earth adventure. Includes mammoths,thunder lizards, and cavemen on the warpath!
Profile Image for H.
45 reviews
April 7, 2020
Good, entertaining yarn in the Burroughs' Pellucidar series.
Profile Image for Tentatively, Convenience.
Author 16 books191 followers
November 4, 2011
I probably read this originally when I was 13 or so when I read 17 Edgar Rice Burroughs bks back-to-back. Then I stopped reading his work b/c I thought it was too unsophisticated & trashy. When I 1st posted this to GoodReads I gave it a 3 star rating. Now I've reread it & I've lowered that to a 2 star rating. Despite that, I have to admit that I enjoyed reading it, I just wdn't make much of a claim for it as highly imaginative or great writing. It took me a few hrs to read & when I was younger & had more time for such things I may've read as much as 3 bks a day to 3 bks a wk - so reading 17 E. R. Burroughs bks wdn't've been much of an extraordinary accomplishment.

I've recently had the desire to reread bks that were important to me as a kid b/c my friend Alan Davies interviewed me & asked me about what bks influenced me in those days & it got me to thinking about them again. I'll probably reread some Hardy Boys too. What interests me the most about such rereadings is the rediscovery of what I can still identify w/ in these bks. Burroughs' protagonist, Lieutenant von Horst, has a sense of humor in a world where his type of humor makes no sense to the general barbarity. Reading this conflict of mindsets was one of the bigger delights of reading this for me.

Burroughs uses the barbarity of Pellucidar as a context in wch the protagonist's ethics can shine forth as desirable. "Von", as the protagonist comes to be known, is constantly putting the good of others above simple self-servingness. Instead of just escaping slavery alone, he leads all the slaves to escape. In Pellucidar, the tribal norm is to murder anyone not of the same tribe. Von works counter to this by making friends from various tribes - who, eventually, work for his own good as well. Von's befriending of a woolly mammoth is the most spectacular instance of this.

Now that I've written this brief review, I've upped the star rating to 3 again! My fascination w/ stories of the Hollow Earth no doubt originated w/ the Pellucidar series & w/ Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. For that alone, at least, I thank Edgar Rice Burroughs.
149 reviews
September 17, 2014
If you have read any other book in the series then you know exactly what you will be getting.
Another entertaining story from the bowels of the earth but in common with previous books the ending is far too sudden and very hurried.
Still an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Charles.
Author 37 books250 followers
July 27, 2008
I have the earlier Ace edition, with a far, far superior Frazetta cover. Good solid stuff.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews

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