Benjamin Chandler's Reviews > The Land That Time Forgot

The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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's review
Feb 25, 2012

liked it

After my recent disappointment with litfic, I thought I'd revisit an book from my youth and see how it fared in my adult eyes.

When I was a teenager, my favorite author was Edgar Rice Burroughs. I devoured his books, drew characters from them in notebooks, and was an active member of the Burroughs Bibliophiles. (I may have been the youngest member, too.) But eventually college hit and my recreational reading declined to nothing. It wasn't until many years later, when on a whim I started to read Umberto Eco that I became excited about reading books again.

"The Land That Time Forgot" was my first Burroughs book. I inherited my father and grandfather's collection of Burroughs books, as both were also fans of ERB, so I was able to read first or second editions of the books. I still recall the coarse, firm pages with their type punched deep into the pulp of the paper. Of course, I saw the movie as a little kid, and Dad tried to get me to read the book then, but it was too hard to read and took too long to get to the dinosaurs. But, I was more patient when I was 14 and had a larger vocabulary, too, and I read the book rather quickly.

And now, more than 20 years since I first read this book, how is it? Frankly, I was worried I would hate it. But that ended up not being the case, even though I found this book to be far from perfect writing. (For those who need full disclosure, I am reviewing the whole "Caspak Trilogy" as one book, as that is how it was collected when I read it as a kid, and also how I read it on my Kindle now.)

For those not in the know (or for those who find the title of the book opaque), this is one of ERB's lost world books, where a group of men find a large island near Antarctica during World War I. The island is populated by animals and plants from multiple geologic periods. The men encounter several different prehistoric peoples as well as some humanoids never seen outside of the island in any era: the bat-like Weiroo. There are oddities in the details of the lives of the denizens of this lost world, which are absurd but explained in the "think of it this way" plausibility that people would shrug off time travel, faster than light speed, or other scientific unlikelihoods you find in pulp fiction or cheesy sci fi cinema. (Truth be told, sometimes those leaps of logic were hard pills for me to swallow. Sometimes I just had trouble suspending my disbelief, especially when prehistoric animals were depicted in ways I knew were no longer accepted theory.)

The writing was occasionally overdone, but the man was probably paid by the word, and that also meant that he used some more flowery language than I would expect at times, sometimes using 25¢ words that almost seemed like relish to the meat. (e.g. using "I precipitated" instead of "I fell") There were episodic moments and I wished the antagonists had larger, more developed roles. Frankly, the best part of the trilogy is the last third where Bradley is kidnapped by the flying Weiroos and sneaks through their City of Skulls. Where Burroughs relied on his imagination rather than his paleontology to create a world, his writing was much more engaging.

So, I guess you can't go back, but you can go again.

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