Journey to the Underground World: Everyone should read a couple of lost world novels

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJourney to the Underground World by Lin CarterJourney to the Underground World by Lin Carter

I believe I’ve come to the point in my life where I need never pick up another lost world pulp fantasy novel. Seriously, they’re all running together in my mind.

In Journey to the Underground World, Lin Carter is (as usual) channeling Edgar Rice Burroughs. In Carter’s version of an underground world, an adventurer named Eric Carstairs meets up with a paleontologist named Dr. Potter who thinks he knows how to find a legendary land under the earth. They fly a helicopter down a volcano and discover Zanthodon, a world where dinosaurs, wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers threaten the Neanderthals and Cro-magnons who also live there. There are creatures to fight, “savages” to outwit, and (of course) a beautiful maiden with a “lithe young body,” “perfect breasts,” “smooth thighs” and “supple flanks” to rescue.

The plot of Journey to the Underground World is fast-paced and sometimes exciting, though it differs little from similar stories of this type except perhaps that it has some things to say about the evils of racism. (This is notable since many of these types of books are Euro-centric in a very ugly way.)

Lin Carter maintains his bad habit of writing his stories in first person but showing us plotlines of the other characters when the point-of-view character isn’t present. This is confusing and sloppy but typical of Carter.

I liked Matt K. Baker, the narrator of Wildside Press’s audio version, but I can’t recommend Journey to the Underground World unless you’re new to the lost world genre — everyone should read a couple of them. But even then I’d suggest that you read Edgar Rice Burroughs instead.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I think my cousin bought a horse the other day with supple flanks…

  2. I’ve probably noted this before, but I loved Lin Carter as an editor. His anthologies and Ballantine Adult Fantasy series introduced me to some great fantasy authors, such as James Branch Cabell and Lord Dunsany. Most hard core Robert E. Howard fans hate him for his Conan pastiches, but I actually thought most were tolerable. Still, I’ve never been able to read much of Carter’s fiction and his multitude of pastiches. I keep feeling like I should, for some reason of loyalty to him for his Ballantine Fantasy Series maybe. This one actually sounds like a good choice. I can just imagine my dear spouse’s reaction when I get to the section about “supple flanks”…

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