Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Concluding Zanthodon (ERIC OF ZANTHODON)

Here we go, I've come to the end of Lin Carter's Zanthodon series with the fifth novel, ERIC OF ZANTHODON.  With the exception of the villainous Xask of Zar getting some form of comeuppance, there's very little plot to speak of here, mostly just Carter tying up loose ends and reassembling his cast of characters in one spot.

No less than five weddings conclude the arcs of several characters, making this one of the happiest endings I've encountered yet - notably, even the two secondary villains, Khairadine Redbeard and Zarys of Zar, get a happy ending upon discovering themselves enthralled with each other, getting married, and disappearing into the wilds of Zanthodon never to trouble anyone ever again.

We're also introduced to another new group of surviving relics from the Surface World in the form of a trio of Afrika Korps soldiers, the last survivors of a group sixty-strong that found their way into the Underground World during a sandstorm and never found their way out again.  They're presented as particularly noble - even more noble and chivalrous than the Cro-Magnons - men who'd known in their hearts that Hitler was a madman but got swept up in the spirit of the age in joinin the German Army.

Once all is said and done and our cast has returned to the Cro-Magnon village, Eric Carstairs, Professor Potter and the leader of the Germans immediately begin planning out how to teach the Cro-Magnons agriculture, animal domestication, brick-making, city-planning, iron-smelting, and all the benefits of civilization that they didn't already have.  Why do they suddenly want to take away everything that made the Cro-Magnons hale, healthy, honorable and all that jazz, and replace it with city life? Because that's what David Innes did in Pellucidar! They talk about building a better society than the surface world in Zanthodon, but I think what the Cro-Magnons had before Eric and company showed up was already better - sure, there was a greater likelihood of being eaten by a bear or a tiger, but nobody seemed unhappy or sickly, there was no poverty, everyone had fulfilling jobs and the lifestyle left everyone with great hunky and sexy bodies.  Will penning the people up inside stone walls really improve on that?

The novel also features one of the most egregious misfirings of Chekov's Gun I've ever seen in the form of Eric Carstairs' .45 automatic.  The gun has been a Macguffin since the second novel, being fought over, schemed over, stolen back and forth, etc., but most notably, not fired -- not after Xask learns of its power by taking down a charging Stegosaurus with it in the second book.  I really thought that Carter was setting up a climactic sequence where either Eric was going to finally shoot Xask with the .45, or Xask was going to get the .45 and try to shoot Eric, only to discover that the gun's empty - that the bullet that took down the Stegosaurus had been the last one in there.  Instead we got...nothing.  It's as if Carter just forgot about the .45 all together.

I'm glad I read the Zanthodon books, but I'm also glad to be finished with them.  They were all right for what they were, but I was really hoping for more from them.

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