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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Savage Pellucidar: Edgar Rice Burroughs - Book Review

pulp cover savage pellucidarSavage Pellucidar is the last of the “hollow earth” stories by Burroughs and like Land of Terror it is more of a collection of loosely connected short stories than a novel; The Return to Pellucidar, Men of the Bronze Age and Tiger Girl and Savage Pellucidar. This book was not published until twelve years after the author’s death and does not so much end the series as kind of peter out.

This book begins with David and his Sari warriors marching on the King of Suvi who at one point captured his mate, Dian the Beautiful. To be fair I think by this point half the population of Pellucidar had held Dian captive at one time or another. The only person who has been held captive more times that Dian the Beautiful is David Innes himself and which bloody well happens to him again when he tries to go to war with Suvi. He sends Hodon the Fleet One ahead of his army to inform the King of Kali that they are on the way but unfortunately the city of Kali has been captured by the Suvi and Hodon is imprisoned in a cave. The Suvi send their own messenger back to David to lead him into a trap.

Hodon is one the major new players in this book and his adventures mainly deal with him trying to get the chief of Kali’s daughter O-aa to shut the hell up and marry him. The Pellucidarian maiden O-aa is easily the most interesting woman to grace the pages of this series; not only is she feisty, brave and clever but she is also the most incredibly pathological liar to ever walk above or below the Earth’s surface. Almost every conversation with her begins with how her father the king and her eleven brothers will kill you and how her seven sisters are the most beautiful women in all of Pellucidar excluding O-aa herself who is the most beautiful by far. It’s a tribute to Burroughs ability as a writer that this woman, who will not shut up for a minute, is so insanely likable. Unfortunately she is a bit too quick to flee and is constantly running off when if she’d just wait a bloody minute all things would turn out fine, so poor Hodon spends most of his time traipsing all over Pellucidar trying to find her.

Meanwhile back in Sari after Abner Perry’s attempts at building an airplane fail he moves on to hot air balloons. Stupidly he lets Dian up in it without properly securing the tether line and the balloon floats up and away with its beautiful passenger. David eventually makes it back to Sari, after being rescued by Hodon, only to find his mate has flown away. He comes up with the brilliant plan of having Abner build a second balloon that will float along the same air currents and which will hopefully bring him to where Dian was taken. This unfortunately is the main thrust of this book; people will get lost or captured causing their significant others to rush off to find them but whenever they arrive at the place that the person they were searching for was they will discover that said person has already left. Think of it as a French Farce with dinosaurs and cavemen.

dian in a balloon

Now in the previous book I found Burroughs’s views on women to be rather repugnant but this time out he has regained some of that lost love by his attack on religion making the “Men of the Bronze Age” story my favorite part of this book. In this segment O-aa and Dian find themselves mistaken as goddess by two warring factions of a much more advanced society with bronze weapons and organized religion. O-aa’s arrival by a strange boat while Dian by balloon impresses each of the cities, and the two women soon find themselves the figureheads of the churches of their respective cities. David’s balloon does eventually make it here but by then Dian and the king of the her city had to flee before an angry mob caught them, and so once again he just missed his mate. Now because David also arrived by balloon he also is believed to be a god and with O-aa’s help they are able to stomp out the church and government’s corruption. Here is a little taste of Burroughs views on religion through David’s views on these poor backward heathen that so warmed the cockles of my heart…

“Remember, they were just simple people of the Bronze Age. They had not yet reached the stage of civilization where they might send children on holy crusades to die by the thousands; they were not far enough advanced to torture unbelievers with rack and red hot irons, or burn heretics at the stake; so they believed this folderol that more civilized people would have spurned with laughter while killing all Jews.”

Damn but you’ve got to respect an author who would slip that into a 1940s fantasy story. His contempt for organized religion creeps into many of his stories but that moment there had me wanting to stand up and applaud.

The rest of the book consists of our characters criss-crossing Pellucidar in search of each other, getting captured again and the escaping again only to just miss being found by their respective loved ones. By the end of the book you just want to scream at them, “You idiots should never be allowed out the door of your homes!” Finally, and most likely due to entropy, all interested parties meet up and make it back to Sari to hopefully live happily ever after… though I highly doubt it.


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