I recently covered THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT for Todd Mason’s Overlooked Movies. Truly overlooked by me, the effects were cheesy even for the time of the film. It was my discovering that Michael Moorcock did the screenplay that got me to watch the film for the first time. A Moorcock script from a Burroughs novel. How could that miss? As part of my preparation, I decided to re-read the book to refresh my memory for any changes. After all, it had been something on the order of forty years or so since I first read it. I had so much fun that I jumped right into the other two volumes which comprise one story told from several viewpoints.
Bowen Tyler is our hero in the first novel. He’s aboard a liner sunk by a German U-boat during WWI(of course the Great War at the time). He rescues a young woman, Lys La Rue, from the waters, is rescued by a tug boat, which is in turn sunk by the same submarine, the survivors taken aboard. Lys was headed to Germany to marry a man who, as luck would have it, was commander of the U-boat. Tyler’s family built submarines and he knew this one intimately, allowing him to take control with the tugboat crew. A traitor amongst that crew messes with the compass and they sail south for weeks before realizing what’s happened.
Low on fuel and food, they come upon an island ringed with high cliffs and Tyler remembers old stories about an explorer’s claim, that no one believed, from a couple of hundred years before. Caprona it had been dubbed. The crew find an underground channel that allows them into the interior where they discover a land of dinosaurs, humanoids of varying degrees of development, and, finally, crude oil. They set up a factory to turn the crude into usable fuel, needed for the long trip north.
Tyler writes it all up and seals the manuscript tightly in a thermos and tosses it off the cliffs into the ocean, hoping someone would eventually find it, get it into the right hands, and come looking for them.
Which is exactly what happens.
The second book, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT, concerns an expedition to rescue Bowen, Lys, and the crew. Tom Billings heads it up and when the yacht finds the island, he flies a small plane over the cliffs and is attacked by a pterodactyl, crashing the plane, and stranding him several hundred miles from where Bowen was thought to be. He has to make his way across the continent sized island, rescuing a young woman, Ajor, from death, traveling with her, and falling in love.
The third book, OUT OF TIME’S ABYSS, finds Bradley, last seen leaving Fort Dinosaur with a hunting expedition in THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, in his own adventures after being captured by winged humans and taken to their island, finding his own love, the beautiful Co-Tan, and the participants of all three books finally coming together at the end.
The novels present evolution decidedly different from the norm and we gradually learn the full story as the books go along, discovering the end result.
Pure pulp and I loved every bit of it. It had been a long time since I’d read Burroughs and I’d forgotten just how much fun his books were(well not really, just more sophisticated reading as I got older). But that little boy still lurks inside this weathered old hide and emerged in full glory. I still get it. I found one review, though, of someone who doesn’t seem to get it. He looked upon them as badly written books, racist, a juvenile mentality throughout. I think he judged them from a modern perspective and not in the times they were written. Definitely not great literature, but I like them a lot better than some more pretentious books.