Monday, December 09, 2013

Book Review - Subterranean Worlds by Walter Kafton-Minkel

I use Grammarly's free plagiarism checker online because
if something’s got your name on it, it should be your stuff!
            This is a wonderful book on a fascinating subject.  The author writes with a mix of humor for the offbeat topic and compassion for those who were true believers.
            Sadly, this book is not cheap if you want to buy a copy, going for around $60 the last time I checked online retailers.  Maybe this is because the publisher, Loompanics Unlimited, is no longer in business. You can go here to see a PDF of their catalog, along with FBI files investigating them!
            Anyway, in this 1989 book, Kafton-Minkel examines the long history of the Hollow Earth idea in mythology, fiction, and supposed nonfiction.  He tells us of Cyrus Teed (the original Koreshian whose title was later appropriated by some Waco whackos), John Symmes, and “the Shaver mystery.”
            Here are the few pages of his introduction to tempt you:

            Although his fiction round-up can’t cover all “underground fiction” (see what I did there?), he gives us a representative sampling of pulp writers like Ray Palmer and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  He also synopsizes Etidorhpa, one I read around 1979 in paperback.  Spell the name backwards for a special treat, kiddies!
            However, my favorite scene from Etidorhpa isn’t mentioned by Kafton-Minkel.  The 1895 book by John Uri Lloyd is a tale within a tale of Llewyllyn Drury -- more specifically, Johannes Llewellyn Llongollyn Drury -- who is visited in the night by an old man who goes by the moniker of I-Am-the-Man-Who-Did-It.  Catchy, huh?  Anyway, Drury and “I-Am” get into an argument about the inexorable progress of man.  Drury keeps talking about how wonderful and civilized Mankind has become, and “I-Am” keeps shooting out one-liners to take him down a peg.  To Lloyd’s hero, mankind is like Norman Vincent Peale -- every day, in every way, Mankind is getting better and better.  In fact, Drury exclaims in a transport of pride and joy, there is NOTHING that man cannot accomplish?
            Oh, yeah? “I-Am” deadpans.  If you can do anything, “Kiss your elbow.”
            Folks, I have tried it.  Can’t be done.
            This is an example of the creepy things in Etidorhpa.  And that’s only ONE of the works discussed in this survey.
            Folks, if you’re fascinated by this topic, and of man’s quest for “hidden” things, please buy it (if you are rich) or get it through Interlibrary Loan and read it.  It’s fascinating, fun, and makes you feel normal again, in comparison to those poor souls who lost their minds and sometimes lives in quest of the shimmering ideal of “lands below the surface.”
            This final bit of imagery is from the end pages of the book.  Do you suppose that these books were actually as listed? or jokes? or perhaps the books were real, but perhaps “Dr Ima Peeper” is a pseudonym.
            Anyway, this is a wonderful book that should have a much wider circulation than seems likely.
This book review is sponsored by Grammarly.


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