Tuesday, May 15, 2012


book cover
Original Publication Date: 1888

Genre: fantasy

Topics: lost world, adventure, exploration


This is a really weird book.

Adam More is a sailor on a convict ship. They're making their way back to England (or wherever the heck they're from) via South America, when he and this other guy whose name I forgot decide to go kill a bunch of seals. The captain's like, "Wait. No. Don't do that," but they go ashore anyway, and before you know it the ship's sailed off without them! They try to catch up but quickly become lost in the Antarctic, and eventually stumble upon a lost civilization of Antarctic peoples. Eventually, More writes about his experiences on a leaf (like Bunny Rabbit's Diary!) and some dudes in a boat find it.

I don't want to compare A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder to The Lost World-meets-Robinson Crusoe, because I think that would be an insult to those books; but it definitely has a similar vibe. The book didn't start off well for me because the hero killed baby seals. THEN these two guys behaved like total idiots with zero survival skills. For instance, they eat snow to survive, when everyone knows eating snow only dehydrates you and you end up dying faster. And shouldn't they be freezing to death?

I wanted to give up, but I stuck with it until the Antarctic people showed up. When they finally did, I only got more annoyed. Naturally, the Antarctic people are cannibals who want to eat the European guys. Ah, ye olde cannibalistic natives ploy. Fun fact: the American natives that the Spanish claimed were cannibals were probably not cannibals at all. Shocking, I know. Moving on... the natives are small, dark-skinned, and treated in a very racist manner by Adam, who describes them as the ugliest things he's ever seen. In addition, their societal values are the complete opposite of ours. They value death over life, try to avoid love, believe being rich is a curse, etc. Of course, European society does this to some extent as well, but let's ignore that because James De Mille is using it to "other"-ize these arctic pygmies, mkay?

On some level I realize De Mille is probably commenting on society having a balance of values, but he takes his damn time getting to the point, and in the meanwhile the book is dragging with these unlikable seal-murdering men who are TSTL. Novels like this basically hinge on plausibility, and to me everything in A Strange Manuscript seemed unbelievable. On the other hand, I could see a ten-year-old boy possibly buying into it.

I think A Strange Manuscript is worth checking out if you want to read something REALLY odd, but for me it didn't have any appeal whatsoever.

Read A Strange Manuscript at Librivox|Project Gutenberg