THE LOST CONTINENT BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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Jefferson Turck is a lieutenant in the Pan-American navy in the year 2137. He gets his first assignment the Coldwater a combination submarine helicopter. He takes it out on a routine patrol from the Azores to Iceland. A violent storm damages the engines and forces to ship to cross the forbidden 30th meridian.

In this future the nations of the western hemisphere have come together to form one nation. The great war that started in 1914 had generated such an isolationist outlook the Pan-American Federation forbid any travel over 30 meridian in the Atlantic and 175 in the Pacific. Now two centuries later the rest of the world is an unknown terra incognita.

Turck decides to lead an expedition to explore Britain. While on this expedition he is left behind by a treacherous subordinate. Abandoned he sets out to find civilization. Britain is a desolate island that is overrun by lions and tigers that probably escaped from zoos. He rescues a young woman named Victory who turns out to be the queen of England. She had been deposed as queen and the two head over to the mainland.

Going down the Rhine the two are taken prisoner by black soldiers. Europe is now being colonized by the Abyssinian empire. Abyssinia now rules all of Africa and in a role reversal colonizes and enslaves the primitive tribes of Europe. Turck is sold as a slave to an Abyssinian general and Victory is destined for the emperors harem.

Taken to New Gondar a city built on the ruins of Berlin he arrives just in time to see the city fall to the invading Chinese empire. Rescuing Victory the two find the Chinese an advanced and civilized empire that rules all of Asia. Taken back to the capital Turck finds that the Pan-American Federation has established relations with the Chinese and he is considered a hero for crossing the meridian.

This book was written in 1915 and shows the strong isolationist sentiment at the time. I suppose for observers at the time it did look like the great war would drag on forever. The book also has the role reversal between Africa and Europe. This was a real interesting futuristic book. One of Burroughs more obscure but most unique stories.

BEYOND THE FARTHEST STAR BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

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A young American volunteer in the RAF is shot down in 1939. Instead of dying he finds himself mysteriously teleported to the planet Poloda. Poloda is millions of light years from Earth. He finds himself in the country of Unis and is adopted by its people.

Unis is one of two countries left on the planet. They have been at war with Kapar which is a Nazi type country bent on world conquest. Unis is the only country that has successfully resisted them and has been waging a war for centuries. From underground cities, tens of thousands of airplanes sortie on bombing missions.

Tangor as the young American is named becomes a pilot for Unis. One day a traitor attempts to recruit him as an agent of Kapar. Tangor agrees to pretend to defect to Kapdor. Kapdor is close to developing an interstellar spacecraft and Unis wants it to escape the planet and the endless war with the Kapars.

Once in the capital city he finds himself in an oppressive society. Under constant surveillance by the Zabo, the secret police, he doesn’t know who to trust. Eventually he gains the trust of Kapar’s ruler and is allowed to work on the spacecraft project. With the help of a highly placed Unis spy he escapes with the plans. It ends with Tangor testing the prototype craft on a mission to another planet.

This is story that was most likely to be an ongoing series in the tradition of Mars and Pellucidar. Unfortunately Burrough’s time as a war correspondent then poor health resulted in the one book only. It is a shame since I think this whole new world of Pangor had infinite possibilities. It was written at the height of the Battle of Britain so it probably looked like an endless future of aerial warfare was a possibility. The Kapars are clearly Nazis with their Gestapo like Zabo and beliefs in racial purity. Unlike the Zani’s in Carson of Venus these fascists are a lot more sinister then the buffoons written about in Carson’s world. It shows how attitudes had changed about the Nazis from before WWII to the current one during the war.

SPURLOCK: SHERIFF OF PURGATORY BY JIM MORRIS

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Spurlock is one mellow dude. It could be from his daily routine of nude yoga. Or possibly his meditation and Zen outlook on life. More than likely its that he smokes more weed than Willie Nelson.

Well whatever the reason he seems to be an effective sheriff for Purgatory county Arkansas in this reality of 1996. In this timeline the US has lost a war in the Middle East in 1988 and are now under Soviet occupation. The details of the how are vague but its largely ineffective just troublesome. Except for guerillas operating outside town the residents of Purgatory would hardly notice any change from before the war.

Spurlock’s quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of Senagliero. Senagliaro is the mafia boss from New York who has come to throw his weight around. He is a psychotic who likes to kill people but his shrink says its ok so he just goes with it. He comes to inform Spurlock that the mob is moving in. The cities are becoming unlivable and many of the suburbanites are moving out to the country. The mob plans to offer them drugs, prostitutes and gambling.

Now there is nothing more terrifying to Spurlock than hordes of middle class suburbanites descending on his quiet little town. He tries to make a deal with Senagliero. There are some old mansions outside of town that can be used by the mob. He figures with the mob’s family around they would keep out the unsavory criminal elements. Before he can make a decision Senagliero is humiliated by the local guerrilla leader. He blames Spurlock for this loss of face. Psychotic mobsters can be very temperamental.

After Senagliero leaves Spurlock begins to thinking about his teenage son and daughter in New York. If its as bad in the cities as Senagliero says then he has to help his kids. He resolves to go to New York and bring them home. With his girlfriend who happens to be a witch, they pack up the VW minibus with guns, food and lots of weed.(The weed comes in very handy later on.)

After their zany cross country road trip they arrive in New York and find the largest floating guerilla war going on. To find his kids Spurlock has to deal with Port Authority bureaucrats, transit cops, street gangs, Soviet Spetsnaz, mob hit men, and special mushroom pizzas.(You have to read it to understand.) It all comes to a climactic showdown with the psychotic Senagliero.

Wow. This book. I love it. Its a stoner action book. Everybody in this is smoking weed. Books where the Soviets occupy American always has them sinisterly efficient. The Soviets are in this minor background players that are largely ineffective. True to the spirit of this book they seem to be getting stoned like everybody else.

So this was really an interesting book. It has a fascinating premise with new age hippy crap, eastern mysticism and philosophy, social satire and commentary. And lots and lots of drug use. I don’t think there’s any other book like it.

FIRST CITIZEN BY THOMAS T. THOMAS

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This is the fiction autobiography of James Granville Corbin with alternating chapters told by his sidekick Billy Birdsong.

In this alternate timeline the US decides to do something about the national debt. They repudiate it. Constitutional amendments in the 1990’s repudiate the debt and forbid the federal government from borrowing or raising taxes. A terrorist nuke going off in Washington decapitate the government and allows congress under a powerful speaker of the house to seize power.

Corbin is an attorney from a wealthy family that makes a fortune in the recycling business. When the US decides to annex Mexico after its government collapses, Corbin forms his own division in the Gentlemen Volunteers; the privately formed army the US uses to seize Mexico. His division distinguishes itself and Corbin is elected to congress.

He eventually rises to one of the triumvirate that takes power after the old speaker retires. A dispute with his rival results in Corbin bringing his army across the Rio Grande and the start of the Second Civil War.

This book is clearly an attempt to insert the story of Julius Caesar into modern America. The author has to stretch history to get the desired result. It does result in a very bizarro world but a fascinating story.

The only problem I have with the book is that the main protagonist is well.. an asshole. It’s not real uplifting that the civil war is fought over two assholes in a dispute over insurance legislation. Yes his opponent is a bigger asshole but rooting for the lesser asshole is more like a presidential election then a satisfying story.

Even with its faults I found this a very interesting book and would still recommend it.

I also wonder if the T in the author’s name stands for Thomas. The guys parents had a weird sense of humor.

WEIRD HEROS VOL. 7: EYE OF THE VULTURE BY RON GOULART

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We start with Gypsy in Marseilles continuing his quest for the mystery behind his identity. First he has to rescue his two friends Annabelle and Warpole. Annabelle is a prisoner of a bordello in Marseille and Warpole is captive of the Scavengers on the Cape Verde islands. The Scavengers are introduced as a group dedicated to collecting technology and people to rule the world.

After successfully rescuing his friends the three head off to Africa. First stop is Ophir which is a sort of Disneyland of Africa. Joining a faux safari the three must battle a rogue robot gorilla and agents of the Scavengers. All the while Gypsy gets cryptic advice from the mysterious talking vulture.

Finally at the country of Ngumi which is in the midst of a violent revolution, Gypsy discovers tantalizing glimpses into his past.

Sadly this was the last of Gypsy’s quest. It seems that Gypsy was a fall guy for an assassination in 1978. The Scavengers were set up as a powerful foe for Gypsy and the next stop sounded like South America. The series probably would have taken Gypsy around the world. A world that we will never get to see. So Gypsy, Warpole, Annabelle and the Vulture fade into history. We will never know the secret of Gypsy’s past.

So be warned that the books were enjoyable reading but it is a disappointment that there will never be a satisfying resolution.

Weird Heroes 3: Quest of the Gypsy by Ron Goulart

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The year is 2033 and a man finds himself in Paris. The city is being torn apart by robots in the middle of one of their revolutions. The man has no memories after 1978. Luckily there is a talking vulture that can fill him in on current events. The vulture is cryptic in that he calls our hero Gypsy and he is part of some grand game. He tells Gypsy that he must go to London for answers.

In London the city is suffering from a plague that only kills men. Gypsy rescues a rogue by the name of Walpole from the police so he has a guide. The first stop is an old hospital that Gypsy remembers. At the hospital he finds a group of women under Queen Bess are behind the plague. Using his new found powers of telekinesis and teleportation he defeats their plot to rid Britain of men. The clues he finds in the hospital point to Madrid as his next stop so Gypsy and his new companion Walpole are bound for Spain.

Now Spain in 2033 is in pretty sad shape. Massive earthquakes and war with Portugal have devastated the country. A new religion called the Church of the Blessed Disaster controls the country. The church is fanatically anti-technology and keeps society in the dark ages. Our heroes come upon a public witch burning. The witch to be burned is Annabelle one of the women from London that Gypsy zapped with his teleportation powers. It appears that materializing out of thin air is grounds for witchcraft and being burned at the stake. Luckily for Annabelle Gypsy uses his powers to rescue her. After harrowing adventures the three escape from Madrid for their next destination Gibraltar.

Gibraltar is inhabited by a peaceful settlement of farmers that inhabit the underground complex located there. After battling a robot left to guard the records, Gypsy arrives too late. The vulture has been able to burn most of the documents. What’s left is clues that his next stop is Geneva.

After some more adventures with Moroccan raiders, Gypsy leaves Warpole and Annabelle for Switzerland. Now Geneva was basically destroyed and a new city Villedeux has been rebuilt over the ruins. The city was built by robots who have now taken total control over the humans in the city. The robots tell the inhabitants when to eat, sleep, dress and live.

Gypsy hooks up with the local resistance and with his help overthrow the robots and free the humans. In the process he damages his arm and finds out that it is mechanical. The clues he finds out are that his next destination is Africa.

So ends the first volume of the saga of Gypsy. It was part of a series called Weird Heroes which was an attempt to revive the pulp fiction stories. Gypsy was supposed to be a six part series but unfortunately only two were published. I chose this book as my first review because it was the first book I ever read. I saw it for sale cheap and decided to buy it.

I have to say that the story still holds up after thirty years. There are beautiful illustrations by Alex Nino throughout the book. I like the mystery of a man that finds himself fifty years in the future with no past memory. The world of 2033 is hinted at being destroyed by a combination of wars, revolutions and natural disasters. Its a plausible future that doesn’t feel dated even now. If there is one criticism of the story is that Gypsies abilities made it too easy for him to get out of danger. Still I enjoyed it and decided to buy the second book which will be for another review.