The Original Lost World

Edgar Rice Burroughs will always be best known for creating Tarzan and yet this was only a small part of this prolific author’s legacy.

Decades before Jurassic Park or the endless “lost island with extinct creatures” films of Old Hollywood, Burroughs was one of the first with his The Land That Time Forgot and its two sequels.

In his trademark style, this swashbuckling, impending-death-on-every-other-page adventure inspires to this day much in fiction and film. His prose is from another era, yet readable and page-turning. Like many of his books, they are written in the first person, giving the story an even more immediate sense of urgency. Very over-the-top, not unlike modern thrillers, but much more straight forward in the storytelling. Modern writers sometimes want to show their skill by cramming in as many plots, subplots, gimmicks and twists as they can. Burroughs shows this isn’t really necessary. Sure, there are cliffhangers and surprises and layers of meaning, but why clutter a story up when one doesn’t have to?

As in most of his novels, there’s always a love interest for the hero to save. In these books, the heroes never fail to find a native girl that they first cannot imagine being with, only to risk it all for them by the end.

While not as epic and expansive as his John Carter of Mars series, the lost island of Caspak has probably inspired more that followed. The whole trilogy can be found in one volume here. This wasn’t Burroughs’ only foray into lost worlds, his exploration of Pellucidar under the Earth’s surface spanned many novels. Read the first two in The Hollow Earth.

Nearly a century after it was written, his lost world is still the standard all others are measured against.

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