Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1875. After serving a short time in the 7th U.S. Cavalry, Burroughs was a shopkeeper, gold miner, cowboy, and policeman before becoming a full-time writer. His first novel, Tarzan of the Apes, was published in 1914, and along with its 22 sequels has sold over 30 million copies in 58 languages. Author of numerous other jungle and science fiction novels and novellas, including The Land That Time Forgot, Burroughs had a writing career that spanned almost 30 years, with his last novel, The Land of Terror, being published in 1941. He died in 1950 at his ranch near Tarzana, the California town named for his legendary hero.
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"The Land of Terror" was the sixth of seven novels in the Pellucidar series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is rather unique in that it was never published in magazine form having been rejected by all of ERB's publishers. Instead ERB, Inc. published the book in 1944, although clearly there are five "parts" to the novel that would have worked as a magazine serial. The result is one of the most disjointed Burroughs novels and the low point in the Pellucidar series. In "The Land of Terror" the focus returns to David Innes, who is rather surprised to learn that he has been living in Pellucidar for 36 years, although he still looks like a young man of about 20. In all that time Abner Perry has brought such wonders of civilization as gunpowder and sailing ships, and now he is working on poison gas. The first adventure has Innes being captured by the women of the village of Oog, who have reversed the traditional gender stereotypes. The second takes Innes to the land of the Jukans, where he is captured by this most bizarre race and forced to make mud pies (no idea what point ERB is making with these crazy society, especially when David declares his name is Napoleon Bonaparte). The third deals with the love story between David's companion, Zor, and Zeeto, while David is off trying to rescue Dian the Beautiful (again) and makes friends with a mastodon. The fourth part of the story has David captured by the giant 6-foot long ants. The final story takes place on Ruva, the Floating Island, where, once again, David ends up a slave. The people of Ruva are black and have white slaves, so there is a racial flip that bookends the opening gender flip.Read more ›
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I'm an avid ERB fan who has acquired just about all the Master's published work. That said, I consider myself one Burroughs' most ardent admirers. Unfortunately I found little to admire in Land of Terror. The novel is disjointed and incoherent with little or nothing to redeem it in many places. Probably the worst facet of the book is the fact that Dian the Beautiful is so little onstage. She appears early on then disappears till the next to last page, having miraculously made everything all right offstage. Probably the two best parts of the book come in the sections featuring the Jukans and the Ruvans, but everything else feels like padding. Characters appear and disappear with appalling regularity, leaving the reader no chance to identify with them. The whole plot (such as it is) seems to be a travelogue of unexplored areas of Pellucidar while David Innes stumbles obliviously into trap after trap. (Had Burroughs made Innes' inability to find his way home unaided the linchpin of the book, I'd be less caustic; but that is a minor point only occasionally mentioned.) Why ERB made his character so stupid at critical times rather than carefully plotting their temporary downfall is a mystery to me. Richard Lupoff says it is to give the reader a sense of superiority over the character, but Innes' slowness, inability to return home, and general failure to recover his wife accomplish that well on their own. Turning a man who has forged an empire from nothing into a blithering idiot for the plot's purposes is sheer folly. How I wish Burroughs had written this better. Unfortunately he didn't, but the parts where he really applied himself to the story do shine, though they are far too few.
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As other reviewers have mentioned and as I've plowed through ERB's sixth Pellucidar novel, it is the weakest of the series. Per "wikipedia", none of his magazine publishers wanted it and I can see why: What 1944 editor wants to publish how women with beards have effeminate males as slaves, have legs "like a linebacker" and beat up and kill with no aforethought. When ERB mentions that it's a good thing men are the leaders in the outer world and what would happen if roles were reversed was quite telling.
Satire regarding "bringing civilation" to the Stone Age inhabitants included inventing rifles and poison gas and other methods of warfare. Yeah, he'd be civilized all right! Clear reference to World War II raging at the time of this writing.
In other adventures, where Inns gets captured quite a lot and finds himself in a society of crazy people and declares himself Napoleon. The stereotype of a crazy person would declare himself so is also telling.
As the reader tiresomely completes this, we have a racial stereotype where the whites are slaves and the blacks are masters. Interesting but not fully developed.
The floating island stuff was interesting as was Dian the Beautiful, who seemed to fare better than David, poor guy.