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At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs
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At the Earth's Core (1914)

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Pellucidar (1)

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5611017,757 (3.38)1 / 10

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
It's been a while since I read any Edgar Rice Burroughs and I'd forgotten just how good he could be. This is a great book, possibly my favourite ERB book so far. A well written, often amusing and always exciting adventure as David Ennis and Abner Perry drill down into the hollow Earth and discover the amazing world of Pellucidar. Loved this. It reminded me why I set about collecting ERB's books in the first place. ( )
  nwdavies | Aug 21, 2014 |
Published in 1914 the same year as [Tarzan of the Apes] this one is a notch below the first of the Tarzan books.
It starts promisingly enough with our hero David Innes and his older inventor friend Perry strapped into a metallic earth burrowing machine. The steering mechanism becomes jammed as they helplessly feel the heat intensify in their capsule, but just as their air supply runs out after four days travelling and Perry is lying inert in his seat the machine breaks through into another world. They have arrived in a world that lies near the centre of the earth and where humans and humanoids battle prehistoric monsters and each other for survival. It is at this point that any characterisation and plotting goes out the window as Burroughs concentrates on building his world in which our heroes have one adventure after another. If the initial premise seems unlikely then the exploits of David Ennis are real boys own fantasy stuff; amazing coincidences, incredible luck, feats of superhuman courage, strength and ingenuity, follow in breathless succession as our hero falls in lust with a beautiful slave girl and single-mindedly tries to woo, win and save her from peril.

Burroughs makes his fight scenes exciting and exotic and there are some imaginative scenarios, but they are linked together with minimal story telling. The world building has promise, but it is never fleshed out in enough detail to make it believable or even workable. His idea that the world of Pelucidar has no concept of time is just plain daft, but it does allow for Burroughs to abandon his plot development, whenever he wishes to bring about the next amazing coincidence.

David Innes tells the story in the first person and says "please bear in mind that I do not expect you to believe this story" and I suppose we; the readers have been warned. This is pulp fiction, probably no worse than much of the stuff that was and still is being churned out and one imagines that Burroughs hardly stopped to think much about his writing. He had an idea for a story, an idea with which could spin off more tales (there are seven in the series) and he hacked his way to the end. A two star read. ( )
2 vote baswood | Jun 23, 2014 |
Also have as Grosset & Dunlap hc ed. ( )
  Georges_T._Dodds | Mar 30, 2013 |
Burroughs' work was disappointingly simplistic on many levels. Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations based upon my belief that he wrote "science fiction;" this work makes clear he has no understanding of the scientific processes unlike great 19th century authors like H.G. Wells. Perhaps more surprising was Burroughs' inability to develop meaningful characters, story lines or social commentary.

Not much more than an easy reading dime store novel. ( )
  la2bkk | Oct 4, 2012 |
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote pure escapist trash, and at his best he did it very well. Here in At the Earth's Core he is not at his best — for example, several of the Barsoom series are definitely better — but if you can sufficiently suspend belief and rational expectation and go with the flow, you can enjoy it. And if you can't quite switch off your critical brain and you do notice the ubiquitous factual errors, just feel smug and enjoy the adventure anyway.

In the rest of this review, I'll try to give you an indication of the sort of thing you can expect from the book, but apart from some concrete examples, not heavy on details.

The Pellucidar series, of which At the Earth's Core is the first book, is based on a version of the Hollow Earth hypothesis: we live on the outside of a hollow sphere and on the inner surface there is another world, lit and warmed by a central sun.

At the Earth's Core shares features with others of ERB's books: our hero somehow gets from the world we know to one where he will face frequent great dangers, which he will confront with bravery and fortitude and some ingenuity, but he will usually survive mainly because of amazing luck. In these stories, million to one chances work out nine times out of ten, but if you want to be really sure, go for the hundred million to one chance. There are, of course, humans in the strange world. Our hero will fall in love with the first woman he sees, he will need to rescue her from great dangers and eventually she will reciprocate his affection. She will turn out to be the daughter of a king or similar ruler.

Now to specifics: this is one of ERB's books in which the hero gets to his world of adventure by remarkable incompetence. He is David Innes, the heir to a wealthy mine owner, and he is interested in the technology and business of mining, source of his future livelihood. His older friend, Abner Perry, is an inventor and amateur palaeontologist who has developed a powerful excavation device, a mechanical mole. It is designed to be steerable, but when David and Perry get in and take it on its trial run, they find that the steering mechanism is too heavy for two men to operate while the machine is underground. They therefore expect death either when their air runs out or when the temperature gets too high as they burrow deeper and deeper into the Earth's crust. Imagine their surprise when instead they break through into the interior world!

Their relief at survival is short lived, as they are soon attacked by a monster, a sort of giant ground sloth. David bravely draws the beast's attack from Perry to himself, and just as it is about to catch and kill him rescue comes in the shape of a troop of intelligent monkeys and their trained dogs. But all is not well: the monkeys take them to their village and put them in their arena to fight animals for general entertainment. David's skill as a baseball pitcher and a fortuitously available pebble hold off the first attack, then a group of gorillas attacks the monkey village, they capture David and Perry and shackle them onto a line of human captives. Next in line to David is a beautiful woman, Dian — we know where this is going. Anyway, during the march she teaches him the language and explains something of their situation. Things go wrong when he knocks out another slave who was making obviously unwelcome advances to Dian; after this she refuses to have anything more to do with him.

The gorillas are not the owners of the slaves, just the guards and collectors. At the end of the march, we reach an underground city of the Mahars, large intelligent winged lizards which are the dominant race of Pellucidar. Being slaves of the Mahars isn't too bad, the work isn't usually arduous, but there are downsides: one, the Mahars are interested in mammalian physiology and the slaves form a pool of vivisection subjects; two, Mahars eat humans.

Dian and some other slaves escape and Dian isn't recaptured. What are the chances that she will survive and that David will find her again? David, Perry and others escape, but get separated. So it goes on: unremitting danger, amazing escapes, unlikely meetings, great successes, and a cliffhanger to make us read the next installment, Pellucidar.

One disadvantage of the edition I have, Deodand Publishing 2002, is the cover art. It shows a large monkey-like creature leaping through the trees, dragging with its right hand what looks like an inflatable sex toy. (picture)
4 vote jimroberts | Sep 24, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edgar Rice Burroughsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blaine, MahlonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frazetta, FrankCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ilmari, SeppoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krenkel, Roy G.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawlor, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattingly, David B.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
St. John, James AllenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the first place bear in mind that I do not expect you to believe this story.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441061567, Mass Market Paperback)

The First paperback edition. With the title, Ace began (FINALLY!) to systematically reprint the novels of Burroughs in mass market paperback form. With the fabulous Krenkel cover art, it is a classic among classics.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:40 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

They found themselves in a prehistoric land--thousands of miles underground.When David Innes and his inventor friend pierced the crust of the Earth in their new burrowing device, they broke out into a strange new inner world of eternal daylight-a world in back of the Stone Age, where prehistoric monsters still lived, and cave men and women battled against cruel, inhuman masters...… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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