SWALLOWED BY AN EARTHQUAKE (1894) – Written by Edward Douglas Fawcett. The Rinaldi family in Naples invite a group of friends, consisting of young Charlie, his uncle, his friend Jack and Dr Ruggieri, to pay them a visit. An earthquake of record intensity rips open deep chasms in the countryside, with the four travelers sliding down into one.
The foursome are cut off from the surface world but find a subterranean river which they explore in a rough boat they construct out of the ruins of a villa which collapsed into the chasm with them. They take along guns and plenty of ammunition from the aforementioned villa. Typical of these hollow Earth/ underground civilization stories, phosphorescent rocks provide plenty of light in many areas. There is abundant vegetation.
Eventually our main characters survive encounters with an exhaustive number of dinosaur species and make a temporary home for themselves on an island in the middle of the underground waterway. While there they build a much larger boat, gather vegetables and catch plenty of fish to be smoked so that they have food for the seemingly long journey ahead.
The travelers start spotting shadowy human figures observing them from a distance and ultimately come face to face with them. They wind up being surviving Neanderthals living a primitive lifestyle. Charlie’s uncle, who proved to be an expert in the various dinosaur species our heroes encountered, now works out a means of communicating with the Neanderthals.
What happens next manages to set this story a bit apart from other, similar Jules Verne subterranean tales – Charlie’s uncle convinces the others to conquer and rule their Neanderthal hosts. No, I’m not kidding. Using their guns the foursome subdue the primitive people and come to be regarded by them as gods. A seven feet tall Missing Link also takes up some story time with its ape-like ways.
At length our deeply flawed main characters learn that the Rinaldis – the people they were trying to visit at the start of the novel – also survived the massive earthquakes. They were captured by a neighboring tribe and are set to be sacrificed to the fire god.
Charlie and his colleagues manage to save the Rinaldis but lose control of the Neanderthals. Violence breaks out and forces our heroes plus the Rinaldis to flee in their boat. More earthquakes now strike, letting in seawater and causing all the dinosaurs and Neanderthals to drown.
Meanwhile, our undeserving main characters manage to hold tight against the unleashed elements and ultimately find themselves floating on the surface world’s seas, still alive and well on their ship. And thus their adventure comes to a close.
Swallowed by an Earthquake is largely a lot of “been there – done that” for Ancient Science Fiction, but what distinguishes it from the countless other Verne imitations of the era is, as I mentioned above, the callous willingness of our main characters to subjugate the hapless primitive people they come across.
This tale is worth reading if you’re into Steam Punk and Faux-Verne and are willing to endure the less appealing side of the central figures. +++
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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