Showing posts with label Zanthodon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zanthodon. Show all posts

Monday, April 24, 2023

Zanthodon #02 - Zanthodon

The Zanthodon series was created by science-fiction and fantasy author Lin Carter. Inspired by “hollow Earth” concepts by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne, the series explores the adventures of action-man Eric Carstairs and his zany employer Professor Potter as they navigate an immense underground world. The series ran five total installments, all published by DAW and now available through Wildside Press. Considering how much I enjoyed the debut, Journey to the Underground World (1979), I was excited to read the next novel, simply called Zanthodon (1980).

For new readers that are picking up the series at this juncture, Zanthodon begins by summarizing the events from the first book. In this novel, main characters like Eric, Potter, Darya, Jorn, and Hurok are misplaced in Zanthodon, each forced to fight to survive in the cruel, harsh landscape. There are dinosaurs, giant spiders, Neanderthals, Cro-Mags, pirates, and cave dwellers that all play a hand in the characters becoming alienated from each other. 

Through the narrative, these characters eventually reunite under unpleasant circumstances. While either stumbling blindly or captured, the characters find themselves trapped in a giant cave system that is occupied by slaves mastered by the evil Gorpaks. Rape, torture, and sacrifices to enormous bloodsucking leeches are all commonplace in the Hellish tunnels. Needless to say, Eric comes up with a prison break plan that occupies most of the narrative's second-half. 

Zanthodon is much better than the series debut and offers up wild adventure in so many different ways. Whether it is pirates, monsters, evil villains, deadly soldiers, prison breaks, and sword fights, the book is saturated with nonstop action. Lin Carter's prose is rather goofy at times, especially considering he was using the concept that all of this is a real manuscript simply published for the public's sake using an alias of “Lin Carter”. It reminds me of all the MAMs back in the day that were “told by the real participants to the unknown writer”. It's really silly, and I wish the whole thing was presented in third-person to avoid the confusion of “this was relayed to me”. But, aside from that, there is nothing to dislike about the story. 

If you are familiar with Lin Carter, you'll recognize the formula of one event leading to another crazy event, like one long chain-reaction that the characters are experiencing. It's a lot of fun and makes for a breezy, easy to read action-adventure worth its salt. Highly recommended. Bring on Hurok

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Zanthodon #01 Journey to the Underground World

As a longtime fan of science-fiction, fantasy, and the works of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter (1930-1988) authored a number of novels and series titles using unfinished manuscripts from his literary idols or by utilizing a pastiche to contribute future installments of established, classic titles. Using the Pellucidar series, written by Burroughs between 1914-1963, Carter created his own “hollow Earth” concept with the Zanthodon series. The five-book run, also inspired by Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, was published by DAW Books between 1979 and 1982. It has been reprinted by Wildside Press as one of their digital Megapacks featuring all five books for an affordable price. I'm starting with the series debut, Journey to the Underground World

The book's star is Eric Carstairs, the stereotypical 1970s action-hero that can pilot, captain, shoot, salvage, and deal with the best of them. He's in North Africa looking for work when he saves a professor named Potter from muggers. At the bar, where Carstairs stores his steep tab, he discusses Professor Potter's interesting proposition. Potter explains that he needs Carstairs to pilot a helicopter into an inactive volcano in an effort to locate the middle of the Earth, a place called Zanthodon. He provides evidence that many ancient cultures knew about Zanthodon and wrote about its whereabouts. The origin stems from a giant meteor that crashed to Earth, plunging through the volcano and making an impact on our planet's central core. The “Big Bang Theory” would have created a miniature Earth inside Earth. Make sense? Potter wants to locate it.

Carter doesn't waste the reader's time, and by page 40 both Carstairs and Potter have crashed the helicopter miles below the volcano. They crawl out of the aircraft and discover that Zanthodon is an evolutionary paradox. Dinosaurs roam free, along with two different types of humans – Neanderthal, which are the most basic of prehistoric humans and the slightly more advanced, evolved humans known as Cro-Magnon. As we know it, roughly a 350,000 year difference between the two on the evolutionary scale. But, in Zanthodon they are both alive and active, although warring with each other.

Aside from being a fighting man, Carstairs has a key advantage by carrying a .45 handgun to shoo away the pests. But, the duo is soon captured by the Neanderthals and taken on a long trek through the wilderness. It's here that Carstairs meets Darya, the captive daughter of the Cro-Magnon's tribal king, as well as Jorn, a fierce warrior-hunter. The narrative builds around Carstairs' attempts to become free while working together with an unlikely ally in Hurok. The book introduces future plots while familiarizing readers with the series vibrant and dangerous landscape.

As pure popcorn fiction, there's nothing to dislike about Journey to the Underground World. It obviously pays homage, and takes some liberties, from prior works like The Lost World and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Carter spends ample time with each character detailing the separate perils they are facing. The plot is spacious, allowing multiple events to occur in different areas – different enemies and challenges that rotate for the characters. I really liked that aspect of the storytelling. 

As a fast-paced, descriptive adventure novel, Carter delivers the goods. Journey to the Underground World is a journey worth taking. Recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE. Get the eBook omnibus HERE.