Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Pellucidar is short partially because Edgar Rice Burroughs often skims over events.

“I shall not weary you with the repetition of the countless adventures of our long search. Encounters with wild beasts of gigantic size were of almost daily occurrence…”
Rather than being a negative — how many times can you describe killing a wild beast? — it works well with the story, giving you a sense that a great deal is happening, a lot of ground and time being covered, without having to suffer through it all. This method of writing works particularly well because of the framing Burroughs uses. In the beginning, we start not with Innes, but with the writer who set down Innes’ previous story for our enjoyment, and a self-styled world wanderer who had found — of all things — a buried yet active telegraph key in the Sahara desert. They meet there and immediately the telegraph operator, Downes, finds out that they’re talking to David Innes himself, and thus, through a telegraph wires suspended through the Earth’s crust, they manage to get the whole of his story, “Practically in his own words.” So it is little wonder that he, in his autobiographical narrative, is more than eager to skim the traveling and skip to the good stuff.

There is plenty of that. Pellucidar is a realm of incredible imagination. The horizon curves up, and, save for in one very special place, the sun is always high. Even further down, beneath the surface of Pellucidar, the winged Mahar live in intricate social groups, while above them human kind tries to rise above its — literally — stone age attitudes. The landscape is beautiful and exotic, and constantly changing. A favorite place for me was the Land of Awful Shadow, with its hauntingly beautiful pendant moon.

The story is never slow as Innes and his friends travel through these places, fighting savage animals and savage humans, often meeting up with friends at just the right time. Sometimes Innes’ luck is too good. I find it hard to imagine Perry whipping up an ocean fleet out of hardly any materials with the ease you or I would cook a TV dinner, but it’s so well conceived, so fast paced that your doubts disappear almost before you can conceive them.

This actual edition of Pellucidar has some high points. I found the forward, by Jack McDevitt and the afterward Phillip R. Burger to be quite illuminating, and the pictures were lovely. J. Allen St. John’s style is wonderful, like Boris Vallejo with a Victorian feel.

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