Written in 1944 Land of Terror is the penultimate book in the Pellucidar series and one that was never serialized as it was rejected by all his usual publishers. Having read it I’m not all that surprised.
The previous book Back to the Stone Age ended with
David Innes finally tracking down von Horst, the missing crewmember who
along with Tarzan and company came to Pellucidar to rescue David. Funny
enough it turns out that von Horst had fallen in love and has no need or
desire to be rescued, so David and his Sari warriors turn around and
head home. Bit of an anti-climactic ending.
It’s in this book that it becomes clear that Burroughs has either
lost interest in Pellucidar or just run out of narrative ideas as Land of Terror is basically just a collection of loosely connected short stories; The Oog Women, Among the Jukans, With the Azar giants, Captured by the Giant Ants and On the Floating Island of Ruva.
After being told “Thanks but no thanks” by von Horst the
company of Sari warriors is ambushed by the Amazon women of Oog and
David is put into slavery… again. It seems that residents of Pellucidar
cannot walk twenty feet without being captured by some savage tribe and
either forced into slavery or put on the dinner menu. This either
reflects on how dangerous Pellucidar is or how out of ideas Burroughs
had become. Women in the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs would not be
called progressive by today’s standard because even though he constantly
tells us how brave and strong they are, the women in his books main
purpose is sadly “damsel in distress” and that’s about it. This isn’t
anything other authors of the time weren’t doing but in this book
Burroughs views on women takes a unpleasant turn that I’m betting at
least some people at the time took offense to it. When captured
by the heavy-built, stocky and bushy bearded women of Oog David
witnesses their brutal ways and how the effeminate men of Oog are
basically slaves and mistreated by the women. When a disagreement
between two women leads to a gruesome ruthless catfight that results in
the death of one of them, David’s thoughts are as follows…
“The brutality of it sickened me. If these women were the result
of taking women out of slavery and attempting to raise them to the
equality of man, then I think that they and the world would be better
off if they were returned to slavery. One of the sexes must rule; and
man seems temperamentally better fitted for the job than woman.
Certainly if full power has resulted in debauching and brutalizing women
to such an extent, then we should see that they always remain
subservient to man, whose overlordship is, more often than not, by
gentleness and sympathy.”
Great googly moogly, but that is terrible! Now this is David’s
internal monologue so it may not necessarily be the view held by the
author, but being David Innes is this book’s hero, and we aren’t
supposed to think of him as a complete asshat, I’m going to go out on a
limb here and say Burroughs may have taken some of that shit seriously.
David eventually escapes from the village of Oog with a fellow slave
by the name of Zor but then he and Zor are soon captured by the Jukans.
Seriously, being captured is like a career for these guys. At least this
does lead to the most interesting section of the book and that is when
David and Zor are lead to the city of Meeza to see the king of the
Jukans and discovers that the Jukans are all completely mad.
Jukans think they are very intelligent though they are a race of
half-wits. They see a man hitting himself with a rock and a woman trying
to cut her own child’s throat. The Jukan god is Ogar, a hideous,
obscene, half-man half-beast idol in front of which their priests ‘pray”
by doing cartwheels. David and Zor do their best to blend in among the
mad inhabitants but David is soon sentenced to be sacrificed to the god
Ogar only to end up running into his mate Dian the Beautiful. Pellucidar
is truly the smallest large world ever. Dian was captured when she went
out on an expedition to find David and you would think by now the two
of them would have learned it’s just best to never leave home.
Our group have many more adventures from encounters with floating
islands to man-eating tusked giants to gigantic ants who all either want
to fatten David and his companions up or enslave them. With getting
captured, separated and then reunited again and again being the sole
thread of this book there isn’t really much to offer the readers except
the weirdness of the creatures our characters meet. Sadly the chapter in
the mad city was the best part as much of the rest of it we’ve seen in
one form or another. Burroughs even rips-off stuff from the previous
books by having our heroes save an elephant to then have it befriend
them and later come to the rescue. This is a book for only hard-core
fans with a completest nature to attempt.
Reading adventure books of the era often means you have to gloss over
period sexism but this book crosses the line and gets down right
terrible at times and certainly not a shining moment in the lexicon of