3,000 MILES THROUGH THE CLOUDS (1892) – Written by Francis W Doughty under a house pseudonym for The Boys of New York magazine, serialized from February 13th to April 2nd.
This story starts out like an imitation of Verne’s Mysterious Island but then becomes its own tale after a while. The action starts in 1864 when Union prisoners in the Confederate’s infamously hellish Libby Prison make their escape led by Captain Mark Wilbur. Their escape by balloon is aided by a sympathetic Confederate.
A storm blows our main characters – Mark, Noel Dupuy and their African-American friend Sam Sandyman – 3,000 miles to the north, where they finally come down into a crater that leads to a subterranean world. They discover a deserted futuristic city overflowing with jewels and precious metals.
Records are found written in Elizabethan English and there are food stores that keep the trio well-fed while they dodge a woolly mammoth loose in the city. At one point Noel sits on a jeweled throne and vanishes while toying with levers attached to it.
Mark and Sam search for him for days and eventually come across a high-tech television device that lets them observe Noel in a city beneath the one they are currently exploring. He is riding a woolly mammoth like its a horse and the city is populated by descendants of Native Americans and Elizabethan Englishman.
Noel becomes a prisoner and while continuing to search for him Mark and Sam come across a woman named Wabena. Together they take an elevator down to the lower city but find it in the process of an evacuation to the higher, deserted city.
Our heroes and Wabena join the evacuation but are captured in the upper city and reunited with Noel. They learn that the Upstairs-Downstairs cities are jointly the Kingdom of Matabela, and as per usual for such Lost Civilizations outsiders are not welcome.
The two separate cities are inhabited at different times of the year depending on temperature changes. The evacuation going on was the seasonal departure from one city to live in the other for the next 6 months.
The King sentences them to death but is secretly longing to return to the surface world so he enters into a conspiracy with our heroes. Their execution is faked and the King joins them in fleeing Matabela with a bundle of diamonds with them.
The escapees are pursued by boat along subterranean waterways all the way to Hudson’s Bay and safety. Our heroes get a happy ending and lives of wealth thanks to the stolen diamonds.
3,000 Miles Through The Clouds is fun but not remarkable. It makes for a nice break if you’re looking for material outside of the well-worn Haggard and Burroughs works. +++
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