Rudy Rucker’s The Hollow Earth is a creative-commons licensed novel about a 15-year-old Southern gentleman and his slave and his dog and Edgar Allan Poe who go on an Antarctic expedition to the centre of the Earth. So yes, this is a continuation of my December Antarctica story binge, but I swear I didn’t know ahead of time.
It’s kind of a rollicking adventure tale that takes place back in the 1830s and is written in that sort of voice, but by a late-twentieth century writer. It’s startling how much of a difference that makes to the readability. It’s recognizably written in that impossible science style of exploratory wonder and 19th century diction but doesn’t require the same amount of reading through the gratingness. I’m going to have to come back to this to figure out how he pulled off the trick.
Not to say it’s a perfect book. Any of my difficulties with it were made up for in the afterword where some of the science and history behind the hollow earth theory (and the particular oddities of the construction in this tale) were laid out as proof of how this is a true story. Very neat.
It’s a sequel set 11 years later when an intrepid man learns that Poe’s fantastical tale of imagination was actually true! Then he joins a captain who’s looking for his lost brother who was also on the ship Pym was on. There are hidden identities and sailing and mutinies and uncomfortable racial profiling and loads of Men of Vision not feeling bad when they cause people to die because of their ideas.
I liked the style of this a bit better that the Pym book, but the dismissal of the people who were fed up with sailing to the south pole to look for some guy who had undoubtedly died 11 years ago annoyed me. Something approaching two dozen people died to save four people. And the cost is only given the lippiest of service. I guess that’s what happens in a true tale of Science!
But I love these versions of Antarctica with their tropical islands and channels past the pole and icebergs that get caught on the ocean floor. Next up: At the Mountains of Madness. And then maybe my historico-mythical Antarctica kick will be over. Or maybe not.
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is a tale about sailing. There are three main stories of adventure: one is about accidentally setting sail with a drunk, one is about stowing away on a ship and getting caught in a mutiny and then resorting to cannibalism, and the last is about going to tropical Antarctica where the savages were full of perfidy (most likely because they weren’t good trustworthy white men was the message, which yes, is racist and problematic, like reading Lovecraft – all these fucking old horror writers seem most horrified by non-whiteness).
It was good in a weird way, despite all its flaws. Nothing felt very important. I mean the narrator was basically the only person to survive several of these adventures and it didn’t really phase him much. And the dismissal of “these terrible things” really undercut the horrific nature of anything that happened. As did all the convenient coincidences, like Pym’s dog being smuggled aboard the ship he’s a stowaway on.