You gotta love Edgar Rice Burroughs. He underperformed in life until, as a pencil sharpener salesman who spent his free time reading pulp magazines, he figured he could be paid to write “rot” at least as good as the “rot” he read in the pulps. And thus started the illustrious career of the man who brought us Tarzan, John Carter, and David Innes… And who inspired a generation of fantasy and science fiction writers.
The Land that Time Forgot, a lost world story set during World War I, is the first in Burroughs’ CASPAK trilogy. It was originally serialized in Blue Book Magazine in the fall of 1918 and then published as a novel in 1924.
Bowen Tyler is on a boat that’s torpedoed and sunk by the Germans. He saves a beautiful drowning young woman who he immediately falls in love with (that’s always how it happens in these stories) and they end up on a submarine with several other Englishmen and several Germans. Eventually (half way through the novel) the story picks up when they land on a lost volcanic island that is inhabited by dinosaur-like animals and a few subhuman races that seem to be at different evolutionary stages.
Like many lost world stories, The Land that Time Forgot has beautiful scenery, scary animals, primitive humans, and lots of adventure. Also like many of these stories, the action is the focus of the story and the characters are only shallowly drawn. For example, the beautiful young woman who the protagonist falls in love with has almost no personality, yet Bowen knows immediately that he loves her and, as expected, he is called on to bravely save her life more than once (while her previously modest clothing is now in tatters). There are the usual issues with sexism, racism, and classism, but these are the things that fans of old lost world stories know to expect — I have never read one that didn’t contain these annoying elements. For readers who know what to expect, The Land that Time Forgot is fun pulpy adventure that’s sure to please.
I listened to the audio version of The Land that Time Forgot which was produced by Blackstone Audio and narrated by Raymond Todd. Todd’s voice is a bit mechanical sounding and he had a couple of mispronunciations (such as “gunwale” pronounced like it looks), but I sped him up a bit and was satisfied, though certainly not thrilled. I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest this title to audio readers, but I wouldn’t be recommending it for the performance. I should mention that The Land that Time Forgot is old enough to be in the public domain, so you can find a free print copy at Project Gutenberg or a free audio copy (read by a nonprofessional volunteer) at Librivox.