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A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (eBook)

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James De Mille was a 19th century Canadian author known for his wit and humor. Before becoming a professor De Mile traveled extensively in Italy, which became the scene for many of his books. De Mille's popular fiction included thrillers, such as The Cryptogram, comic novels of adventure, such as The Dodge Club; or, Italy in 1859, and historical romances, such as A Tale of James De Mille was a 19th century Canadian author known for his wit and humor. Before becoming a professor De Mile traveled extensively in Italy, which became the scene for many of his books. De Mille's popular fiction included thrillers, such as The Cryptogram, comic novels of adventure, such as The Dodge Club; or, Italy in 1859, and historical romances, such as A Tale of Rome in the First Century. His series Brethren of the White Cross was the first series for young readers published in Canada. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder published in 1888 is a story set in a future time when humanity becomes a conformist society with no inspiration to develop creative ideas.


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James De Mille was a 19th century Canadian author known for his wit and humor. Before becoming a professor De Mile traveled extensively in Italy, which became the scene for many of his books. De Mille's popular fiction included thrillers, such as The Cryptogram, comic novels of adventure, such as The Dodge Club; or, Italy in 1859, and historical romances, such as A Tale of James De Mille was a 19th century Canadian author known for his wit and humor. Before becoming a professor De Mile traveled extensively in Italy, which became the scene for many of his books. De Mille's popular fiction included thrillers, such as The Cryptogram, comic novels of adventure, such as The Dodge Club; or, Italy in 1859, and historical romances, such as A Tale of Rome in the First Century. His series Brethren of the White Cross was the first series for young readers published in Canada. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder published in 1888 is a story set in a future time when humanity becomes a conformist society with no inspiration to develop creative ideas.

30 review for A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (eBook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scribble Orca

    Perusing the Library shelves for Fernando del Paso and landing at DEM with the words A STRANGE MANUSCRIPT FOUND leaping at the eye. Blurb on the back mentioning four readers of a manuscript (shades of metalepsis?), satire, pioneering, Canadian academic (1833 - 1880) mostly known for (t)his posthumous novel. Baited, hooked, book borrowed. Later comment from an occasional online chat aQuaint Ants: "yawn", after describing the blurb. Undeterred, flicking open to the last page to find fir Perusing the Library shelves for Fernando del Paso and landing at DEM with the words A STRANGE MANUSCRIPT FOUND leaping at the eye. Blurb on the back mentioning four readers of a manuscript (shades of metalepsis?), satire, pioneering, Canadian academic (1833 - 1880) mostly known for (t)his posthumous novel. Baited, hooked, book borrowed. Later comment from an occasional online chat aQuaint Ants: "yawn", after describing the blurb. Undeterred, flicking open to the last page to find first publication by Chatto & Windus (point in book's favour) and notes (!?) mentioning Van Dieman's Land, Gorgons, Semiramis, more Paradise Lost quotes, and Thomas Moore (that Moore). More points. *** You are sitting or standing somewhere reading these pixels on a screen, your now will not be the now of writing, but to all intents and purposes collapses to the same instant (this isn't a Calvino rip-off) and as you read, you might think you are alone, but somewhere someone else is reading and somehow, the comment thread of this review functions much like a comfortable room, somewhere you enjoy conversation and discussion, the where is up to you, and so you are joined by other readers standing sitting somewhere but to all intents and purposes sharing this congenial space. Of course, you discuss what you are reading, perhaps even orate from the text aloud, to snigger or snark, depending on your perception of what is de texte and what is ho(a)rse text. Flashbackforward to a scene of four travellers in a ship discovering a text and discussing its merits, shortfalls, content, design, philosophy, language, reference to other texts, veracity, authenticity, comment on society, even (gasp), the intent of the author. *** de Mille wrote this piece in 1878 or thereabouts. *** Missing is the intrusive author. The opening text is closer to a nouveau roman in tone, in the use of camera (ignoring the past tense construction), and in the speakerless narration. Unless the dialogue of the characters is carrying the text, events are related simply, without loaded language - the reader is left, according to the whims of the reader, to infer how to assess these four characters who will find the strange manuscript and discuss it. It is not until the reading of that has begun, and the narrative returns to these four, that a Narrator, masquerading as author or simply an additional voice in the text (according to reader predilection), describes briefly (two paragraphs) each of the sea-going travellers, before they take up the tale again and continue their reading and discussion. And quite heated it becomes, a display of de Mille's research in current scientific discoveries, theories, notions and phax from the era, as each of the characters argues a specific point. Enter satire, but not just on the text being discussed, but on the various positions held by each of the four. The manuscript itself, narrative-wise, is deliberately flawed, preceding Sorrentino's Stew, and borrows unashamedly from Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, providing the characters grist for their respective mills, but is no less innovative (in a content sense) for that. It even degenerates to the level of either satirical or scientific romance, according to an argument between the London litterateur and the aristocrat dilettante, but that's left, as is much else, to the reader to decide, hence the borrowing from Swift is not in content alone, but in intent as well. *** Interesting how the trend of late is towards non-phiction (phaction) - nobody reads fiction these days, and why should they, devoid as is it is anything unusual, unknown, outside the reader's ken, anything which might prompt an interest in discovering the new, the daring, the outrageous, the contrary - that is after all the province of phaxion, written in narrative styles reminiscent of texts dating from a few centuries ago, when the norm was demonstrating the accomplishment of the writing craft apprenticeship by referring to the study of what had gone before....

  2. 4 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    The problem with most Utopianists, as game designer Ken Levine points out, is that they don’t take into account the nature of humanity. Instead, they lay an ideal on top of humanity, and because it is a nice idea, just assume that it will just automatically smooth everything out. But, of course, the world has always been full of nice ideas, and despite that fact, greed, ignorance, brutality, and lust always end up getting in the way. But then, the Utopianists were some of the first fantas The problem with most Utopianists, as game designer Ken Levine points out, is that they don’t take into account the nature of humanity. Instead, they lay an ideal on top of humanity, and because it is a nice idea, just assume that it will just automatically smooth everything out. But, of course, the world has always been full of nice ideas, and despite that fact, greed, ignorance, brutality, and lust always end up getting in the way. But then, the Utopianists were some of the first fantasists, authors who created and explored strange, false world of representational ideas, the world of Plato’s Republic, More’s Utopia, and Morris’ News From Nowhere --but alongside these were the satirists, those who created fantastical realms because of how effective such creations are when we want to mock the arbitrary traditions of our own world: Lucian’s Storia Vera, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, or Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. In the end, De Mille’s fantastical world has too little to do with reality to make it really interesting. The book starts off rather promisingly, giving us some amusing characters and then rushing full-bore into life-or-death adventure in a strange, new land--anyoine who has read Burrough's John Carter of Mars books or Haggard's Quatermain stuff will recognize it immediately: our hero must learn to survive amongst the unpredictable, alien culture. Of course, De Mille was the one who did it first, and there is something to be said for that. Unfortunately, he can't keep up the pace, and by the midway point, we’re completely stagnated in goofy worldbuilding: the hero speaking at length to the natives about their world, then turning and speaking directly to the audience for a further chapter where he repeats everything. Then we break off to the frame story--a set of sailors reading this mysterious manuscript out loud--as they sit around theorizing what type of extinct creatures the narrator was describing, and whether the Antarctic race he encountered were the tenth tribe of the Jews or a race of Red Sea troglodytes, complete with a discussion of Hebrew phonemes. Yet this culture isn’t particularly interesting, even though it sometimes gets close--the idea of a culture that idealizes the poor and downtrodden, that thinks fondly of death and sees wealth as an evil is not really all that odd. Eventually, De Mille has his narrators mention that it sounds like Buddhism or the Ascetic Christian tradition that sprung up from that Indian mystical influence. Unfortunately, De Mille doesn’t take cues form these cultures and add in details that make his little world unusual enough to be interesting, nor does the culture make much sense: the system which he describes seems to have no way of supporting itself as it is explained. Instead, like the Utopianists, he merely sets up a world that is the opposite of ours and never bothers to question how it might come about or why human beings would follow it, once it were established. Of course, if it were just a bit of background info, lightly touched upon, the setting for an otherwise rip-snorting adventure, I might not mind so much, but since he spends chapter upon chapter trying to explain its nonsensical intricacies to us, its silliness and flaws cannot really be overlooked. Once again, I am reminded of my own person writing rule that it is better to imply than to explain, to show the world as it is through the action rather than sitting down and trying to explain it. The only thing that achieves is revealing to your audience all the holes in your ideas. Then we head back to the frame story where the characters all talk about dumb and poorly-written the book is, and how it doesn't really make sense, though one gets the impression that De Mille is doing it in an attempt to be funny and clever. Then they start talking about the thematic meaning of the book, that even though the people in this culture have all the things we want, that we think will make us happy, they still aren't happy, and in fact they want all the stuff that we despise. I suppose that would be a somewhat clever premise, but it isn't actually how the action or characters are set up. Since the culture is arbitrarily set up and (despite a lot of discussion on the subject) there's never any clear psychological reason for the characters to behave the way that they do, the satire falls rather flat. De Mille evokes Swift by name, talking about representational satires that reveal something about our world to us, but he simply isn't funny or clever enough to pull it off, and so it just becomes the same allegory over and over, occasionally interrupted by some very welcome action scenes. Indeed, the book described by the characters in the frame story sounds vastly more interesting than the one we actually get. The lesson of Lucian, Swift, and Carroll is that the reader is less concerned with complex explanations about the author’s intentions than with story, character, action, wit, and insight. But then, their worlds were attempts to explore ideas through extended metaphors, whole nations and peoples that represented complex and unusual ideas--the truest definition of magic in literature being a metaphor, physically realized. De Mille’s is just an example of contrarianism: he has taken the world as it is and turned it upon its head without much rhyme or reason to account for it, and as Quentin Crisp points out in his introduction to Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series, being original is not the result of looking at what everyone else is doing and performing the opposite, but of finding a purpose that drives you, a philosophy that gives meaning and direction to what you write. De Mille possesses neither that purpose nor an exciting tale to tell in lieu of it, so I suppose that really does make this book the prototype of the modern fantasy tale.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tyrannosaurus regina

    Because this is believed to be the first work of Canadian speculative fiction, and because it has an oddly awesome title, I really wanted to love this. And there are moments of great imagination, but mostly it talks in circles, lectures, and never quite thinks through the implications of the society it sets up, taking the easy and obvious route every time. Plus, period-accurate but no less appalling for it racism and sexism. What I ended up liking best was the framing story, the boatload of what we Because this is believed to be the first work of Canadian speculative fiction, and because it has an oddly awesome title, I really wanted to love this. And there are moments of great imagination, but mostly it talks in circles, lectures, and never quite thinks through the implications of the society it sets up, taking the easy and obvious route every time. Plus, period-accurate but no less appalling for it racism and sexism. What I ended up liking best was the framing story, the boatload of what were essentially nineteenth-century trust fund brats portrayed as exactly that; I would have hated them in real life, but appreciated them in the context of the story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book's history is at least as interesting as its content. This dystopian novel was actually written before Butler's Erehwon, but it was published posthumously by his wife. De Mille wrote to his brother (I believe it was) that he was not satisfied with the book's denouement - that is why he never published it. It has certainly received a varied reception, but enjoyed a renewed popularity when it was compared to more post-modern writers - the framing narrative is the least characteristic This book's history is at least as interesting as its content. This dystopian novel was actually written before Butler's Erehwon, but it was published posthumously by his wife. De Mille wrote to his brother (I believe it was) that he was not satisfied with the book's denouement - that is why he never published it. It has certainly received a varied reception, but enjoyed a renewed popularity when it was compared to more post-modern writers - the framing narrative is the least characteristic of its own era.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    This 1888 tale appears to be the first novel to feature dinosaurs in a recognizable form. If it had mostly been about dinosaurs or had more scenes with dinosaurs, I might have liked it more. What we have here is essentially a "Lost World" story in which a group of yachtsmen find the title manuscript in a copper cylinder, read it aloud to themselves and comment upon it. In the manuscript, sailor Adam More goes hunting in the Antarctic and gets separated from his ship. He has several ad This 1888 tale appears to be the first novel to feature dinosaurs in a recognizable form. If it had mostly been about dinosaurs or had more scenes with dinosaurs, I might have liked it more. What we have here is essentially a "Lost World" story in which a group of yachtsmen find the title manuscript in a copper cylinder, read it aloud to themselves and comment upon it. In the manuscript, sailor Adam More goes hunting in the Antarctic and gets separated from his ship. He has several adventures until he sails through a cavern into a lost, temperate world at the South Pole -- temperate because the cold is mitigated by geothermal heating -- not a bad idea for 1888. There he finds a world where the social structure is turned on its head. The paupers are the most revered and the leaders. The wealthiest are reviled. Lovers are separated rather than married. The loftiest goal is to be killed or sacrificed. All of this is repeated many times and all of this is told through racial and sexual viewpoints of the late nineteenth century. On top of that, none of the characters really rise above stereotypes.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thom Swennes

    This is actually a book within a book. With this uninspiring and enigmatic title doesn't do justice to this story by the Canadian born writer James De Mille (1833-1880). An unsuspecting reader would soon think it an unknown or forgotten work of Jules Verne as it combines many of his intriguing subjects and ideas. A copper cylinder is found floating in the Caribbean Sea by vacationing Englishmen. In this cylinder a manuscript is found (from the title this story up to this point could be deducted This is actually a book within a book. With this uninspiring and enigmatic title doesn't do justice to this story by the Canadian born writer James De Mille (1833-1880). An unsuspecting reader would soon think it an unknown or forgotten work of Jules Verne as it combines many of his intriguing subjects and ideas. A copper cylinder is found floating in the Caribbean Sea by vacationing Englishmen. In this cylinder a manuscript is found (from the title this story up to this point could be deducted but the magic of the tale has not yet been exposed). The story, written on papyrus, relates a tale of tribulations, horrors, murder and love. This is an amalgamation of Journey to the Center of the Earth and Jurassic Park with a bit of Love Story thrown in for spice. This story was posthumously published in serial form by Harper’s Weekly and in book form in 1888. The story, as a whole, is of a fantasy world turned upside down; what can’t be is and what is normal isn't. It is well worth an investment of time as you will finish it with your eyes wide open.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    Just as the title says this tale is really strange. We begin with the story of four yatchsmen who, upon deciding to have a paper boat race come upon, as the books title says, a copper cylinder. Well they all take turns reading the manuscript therein which relates the apparent adventures of a sailor called Adam More who after being shipwrecked in Antarctica and upon entering some subterranean tunnel happens upon a world of prehistoric animals and plants coupled with a death worshipping cult...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris H-C

    Parts "Princess of Mars", "The Lost World", "Gulliver's Travels", and more, this was an interesting read. That being said, holy crap people were open about their prejudices in the 1880s. The sexism and racism kept rearing up. It's probably best to take that as a product of the age it was written. I'm of mixed opinion about the use of the framing device of the four indolent men becalmed on their yacht. I liked the half of their role that was as a sardonic, four-part Greek ch Parts "Princess of Mars", "The Lost World", "Gulliver's Travels", and more, this was an interesting read. That being said, holy crap people were open about their prejudices in the 1880s. The sexism and racism kept rearing up. It's probably best to take that as a product of the age it was written. I'm of mixed opinion about the use of the framing device of the four indolent men becalmed on their yacht. I liked the half of their role that was as a sardonic, four-part Greek chorus. I wasn't as fond of the half acting as a dry Appendix of dinosaurs and language. The ending was cute as well.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Review of A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder, 1888, by James De Mille Missed the mark. The title was the hook. And I stand by it as being a great one. And the premise promised much, too. A story within a story as four friends combat the boredom of their privileged lives by setting sail around the Canary Islands and the Azores. While becalmed, they make paper boats for a race to combat yet more boredom, and so discover the mysterious floating cylinder.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lila

    This one took a couple of false starts before I got into it. I thought I knew just about every lost world novel, but hadn't come across James De Mille before, possibly because he is viewed as a Canadian writer. Published posthumously in 1888 as a series in Harper's Weekly, this apparently Canadian classic tale of an underground Antarctic civilization compares with Poe's Pym of 1838. The frame story is formed by bored friends who find the account written in papyrus in the cylinder of the title. O This one took a couple of false starts before I got into it. I thought I knew just about every lost world novel, but hadn't come across James De Mille before, possibly because he is viewed as a Canadian writer. Published posthumously in 1888 as a series in Harper's Weekly, this apparently Canadian classic tale of an underground Antarctic civilization compares with Poe's Pym of 1838. The frame story is formed by bored friends who find the account written in papyrus in the cylinder of the title. One, Melick, believes it's a hoax and fictional, others believe it is factual and add comments about prehistoric creatures from their reading of Richard Owen. The discoverers argue among themselves on how to read the text, making references to several Victorian scientific writings. The found account tells of a civilization that worships death and darkness; their morals are reversals--death is best, as is poverty, and women rule. There are plesiosaurus and pterodactyls, references to John Symmes' Symzonia (1818) or hollow earth. The novel can be view as satire or science fiction and is great fun. The Broadview edition is heavily annotated. The year 1866 is given as a possible date of composition, thus predating Haggard's She.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Glen

    A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille Consisting of 203 pages across 31 well presented chapters in this edition. The story flows reasonably well, but perhaps it's reading might feel dated to some being a Victorian work. The perspective of the work moves between a group of 'gentleman' enjoying a pleasure cruise on a yacht, and the characters in a collection of papers sealed in a copper cylinder these gentleman find at sea. Dialogue is i A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder by James De Mille Consisting of 203 pages across 31 well presented chapters in this edition. The story flows reasonably well, but perhaps it's reading might feel dated to some being a Victorian work. The perspective of the work moves between a group of 'gentleman' enjoying a pleasure cruise on a yacht, and the characters in a collection of papers sealed in a copper cylinder these gentleman find at sea. Dialogue is interesting and the author obviously understands the basis of language as is revealed in the work, although the narrative is a reflection of its period of writing. I don't think the work is so much of a page-turner as a good yarn, full of well researched facts, possibly aimed at readers who might enjoy such works as Jules Verne's 'Mysterious Island'. I enjoyed the read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    Four yachtsmen sailing out of Madeira discover the titular manuscript which relates a strange tale of a lost world at the South Pole. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle definitely owes a debt to this work, but A Strange Manuscript... is more allegorical and less entertaining than Conan Doyle's pulp classic. Too much of the story is devoted to the cave-dwelling cannibalistic Antarctic inhabitants' nihilistic philosophy of life, which somehow manages to make a story of a secret world Four yachtsmen sailing out of Madeira discover the titular manuscript which relates a strange tale of a lost world at the South Pole. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle definitely owes a debt to this work, but A Strange Manuscript... is more allegorical and less entertaining than Conan Doyle's pulp classic. Too much of the story is devoted to the cave-dwelling cannibalistic Antarctic inhabitants' nihilistic philosophy of life, which somehow manages to make a story of a secret world inhabited both by a lost civilisation and by dinosaurs downright dull. The frame narrative, in which the discoverers of the manuscript discuss the story as it's in progression and speculate on its veracity, is more interesting than the story itself, although weighed down by large amounts of exposition about palaeontology and linguistics.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liz Polding

    More Swift than Conan Doyle, although far less savage than Swift - this is no Modest Proposal - this is well-crafted, although the ending is a bit abrupt. A clever examination of a society where virtue and piety are taken to such extremes that they become vices and perversions. The device of the aristocratic sailing party works reasonably well, although the characters in this aspect of the story are essentially just there to link the story together and speculate on the science. They are the lear More Swift than Conan Doyle, although far less savage than Swift - this is no Modest Proposal - this is well-crafted, although the ending is a bit abrupt. A clever examination of a society where virtue and piety are taken to such extremes that they become vices and perversions. The device of the aristocratic sailing party works reasonably well, although the characters in this aspect of the story are essentially just there to link the story together and speculate on the science. They are the learned man, Bullingdon Boy (complete with an inability to say his 'Rs'), the jolly good chap etc. interesting that the thing which frightens and baffles the protagonist the most is the concept of an assertive woman. Poor lamb, how dreadful for him!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Elliott

    The narrative of the castaway in the lands of the south pole was interesting on the whole, but nothing special. The interludes of the people on the boat become worse and worse each time they appear.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Patrick St-Amand

    ***3.25 stars*** Keeping in mind how old this is I rather kind of enjoyed it though it does read a bit unevenly. There are some rather dark moments (cannibalism and worshippers of death) and of course some of the science seems dated but other then in the middle the pace was pretty good. The idea of a people who are polar opposites (you'll get the pun if you read the synopsis) is not new but it does raise some interesting moral questions.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vlad

    A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder is a fun, light little adventure novel. The base narrative is as typical as serialized pulp adventure gets; the heroic European in a strange land that must use his wits to survive; an exotic romance devoid of any concrete sexuality or eroticism; fantastic monsters; horror and appalling practices from the "savages." Overall, an exceptionally standard literary stew comprised of 19th century adventure ingredients. The "strange manuscript", A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder is a fun, light little adventure novel. The base narrative is as typical as serialized pulp adventure gets; the heroic European in a strange land that must use his wits to survive; an exotic romance devoid of any concrete sexuality or eroticism; fantastic monsters; horror and appalling practices from the "savages." Overall, an exceptionally standard literary stew comprised of 19th century adventure ingredients. The "strange manuscript", comprising the primary narrative within the novel, is fast and straightforward adventure reading. The hero is moved from one fantastical set-piece on to the next with little fluff in between. The story may be very predictable to readers familiar with these kinds of stories, but it hits the beats with a likable "B-movie" style of approach. Action scenes move along at brisk pace and DeMille seemingly has no shortage of classical monsters to throw at the reader. There's also a love triangle and romance which is cheesy to a boring point; the novel has little interest in developing its female romantic leads or their relationship to the protagonist beyond the title of the "exotic/oriental." The narrative also slows down to a dull plod when the protagonist spends pages and pages describing the Kosekin culture. We get it; they do everything completely the opposite. Death is considered favorable to life, darkness favorable to light, poverty favorable to wealth, and so on. There's really not any more depth to it, and one wishes DeMille chose a more interesting exotic civilization to put his hero in. DeMille employs the popular "frame narrative" device that had been so common in British serials of the time. The depicted weather and atmosphere of the scene where the men on the boat read the "narrative" makes one predict that the presented manuscript will be a light-hearted, adventurous escapade rather than anything particular dark and gloomy. Immediately from the start, the reader is clued in with classic oriental references that the story will be that traditional tale of "stranger in a strange land." The frame narrative, where some nobles relax on a yacht and read the tale, is effective at introducing an element of comedy, the source of which is the schism that many readers will face when reading this book. One noble thinks the "manuscript" is sensationalist trash, which brings a refreshing sense of self-awareness on DeMille's part. On the other side, the story is taken with utmost seriousness, delving into the hard science behind the, of course, totally ridiculous tale. These two extremes of literary opinion make the work into an ironic one. Though the writing in the "manuscript" is capable, and action moves at an exciting pace, it would suffer substantially without the inclusion of the frame tale (I think a great comparison would be the film "The Princess Bride." While the main fantasy is plot is great, the wraparound of the grandfather reading it to his grandson in present time gives it that perfect, lighthearted feeling). In conclusion: A fun adventure with undercurrent of playful irony, though the middle section got quite bogged down with in-depth description of Kosekin culture and trying to explain through realistic scientific terms the origins of the manuscript's events. This would be a great read for 10-12 year old boys, but adults used to these kinds of stories will probably find it lacking.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Norman Cook

    This has one of the worst titles ever, one that doesn't do justice to the rollicking lost-world adventure within. It was published after De Mille's death, and was unjustly criticized on publication as being derivative of H. Rider Haggard, when in fact, it was written prior to Haggard’s breakthrough novels. It was also undoubtedly an influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs, with the exotic locale, strange social customs, and romance between a “normal” man and an "alien" woman that were staples of Burroughs' work. I woul This has one of the worst titles ever, one that doesn't do justice to the rollicking lost-world adventure within. It was published after De Mille's death, and was unjustly criticized on publication as being derivative of H. Rider Haggard, when in fact, it was written prior to Haggard’s breakthrough novels. It was also undoubtedly an influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs, with the exotic locale, strange social customs, and romance between a “normal” man and an "alien" woman that were staples of Burroughs' work. I would go so far as to think that if De Mille had lived longer he would have ushered in the romantic adventure genre 15-20 years before Burroughs. De Mille used a framing device that provided meta commentary on some of the story’s excesses (“…this awful rot and rubbish….”). In case the reader didn't catch the intent of the story, the framing story provided an explanation: "Well," said Featherstone, "… Do you still think it a sensational novel?" "Partly so," said Melick; "but it would be nearer the mark to call it a satirical romance…. The satire is directed against the restlessness of humanity; its impulses, feelings, hopes, and fears--all that men do and feel and suffer. It mocks us by exhibiting a new race of men, animated by passions and impulses which are directly the opposite of ours, and yet no nearer happiness than we are. " The framing story also tried to justify some of the pseudoscience (and, to be fair, the then unknown science and geography of the south pole) of the book, describing the giant monsters in terms of prehistoric animals such as pterodactyls, and the native alphabet and grammar in terms of being derivative of Hebrew. Modern readers may find some unintentional humor: Their love of darkness, their passion for death, their contempt of riches, their yearning after unrequited love, their human sacrifices, their cannibalism, all had more or less become familiar to me, and I had learned to acquiesce in silence; but now when it came to this--that a woman should propose to a man--it really was more than a fellow could stand. I'd love to read more about the fascinating bizarro world of De Mille's south pole, but alas, we must be content with this glimpse. If you're a fan of Burroughs, you owe it to read this pioneer of pulp adventure.

  18. 4 out of 5

    D.M. Dutcher

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It's a bit too savage of a satire on either Christianity or Buddhism to truly like, but it's more compelling than the title would think. Very abrupt ending. Some bored socialites on a yacht discover a strange copper cylinder. In it is the record of a sailor who has discovered what is a nightmare world. In a cave society there exists a race of people that at first seem kindly altruists, but in actuality possess such a screwed up belief system that the sailor quickly finds his existence It's a bit too savage of a satire on either Christianity or Buddhism to truly like, but it's more compelling than the title would think. Very abrupt ending. Some bored socialites on a yacht discover a strange copper cylinder. In it is the record of a sailor who has discovered what is a nightmare world. In a cave society there exists a race of people that at first seem kindly altruists, but in actuality possess such a screwed up belief system that the sailor quickly finds his existence a horror. Meanwhile the socialites critique the manuscript itself in an interesting metafictional take on the book. It's hard to avoid spoilers, but the book is really a hard satire on certain forms of religious faith. The inhabitants of the dystopia long for death like people long for life, and have a complete reversal of status. Filthy paupers are the highest status people, and what the sailor thinks is altruism is people in essence robbing a clueless outsider to boost their status. The richest are seen as the poorest, and it gets worse. The highest form of love between two people is being separated forever and marrying others, and public death is the greatest reward. It's way too close to a nightmare version of Christianity to be comfortable reading. Martyrdom, the least being the highest, giving away everything you own, and a dark, cannibalistic rite of supper hint towards it, although it tends to add Buddhism in that actual religious origins of the society aren't explored, and it seems to be more of a philosophy. But it manages to be surprisingly dark, with the philosophy the dystopia has growing even worse when one particular philosopher starts to manipulate it to win the sailor over to her own aims. It's compelling, but it's really a harsh, almost unfair satire. It manifests a bit in the book too, in that the main characters tend to be unable to act due to despair. The metafiction aspects are funny as one pedantic doctor starts to identify all the critters in the account, a writer cynic ranks on how bad the book is, and they start to debate philology and language. It's very readable for a 19th century dystopia, and the way the world is can actually slip into horror for the modern reader. Definitely worth reading, although the satire may bite a bit too deeply for some.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    De Mille offers us a strange manuscript indeed with his unusual satirical take on that time worn classic, stranded sailors uncovering hitherto unknown societies in hidden locales beyond impassable geographical features and dangers multitudinous. A group of wealthy Englishmen on a yachting trip discover a copper tube floating in the ocean; fishing it out and prying it open presents them – and us – with Adam More's tales of adventure on several sheets of papyrus. More, of course, was separated fro De Mille offers us a strange manuscript indeed with his unusual satirical take on that time worn classic, stranded sailors uncovering hitherto unknown societies in hidden locales beyond impassable geographical features and dangers multitudinous. A group of wealthy Englishmen on a yachting trip discover a copper tube floating in the ocean; fishing it out and prying it open presents them – and us – with Adam More's tales of adventure on several sheets of papyrus. More, of course, was separated from his ship while hunting one day and carried through numerous dangers to the bizarre lands he writes from. The culture who rescues him, the Kosekin, welcome him unreservedly and shower Adam with their highest honours. Much to his dismay. This disconnect between what the Kosekin value and what Adam values will lead him to risk his life in hopes of reclaiming his desires. While this may have been published in 1888, it is as valid a critique of contemporary society now as it was when De Mille wrote it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stella Lee

    I read this because it was in one of those top 100 books to read lists, and it's free. There were some bits that kept my attention but this one is good to go to sleep by. I would classify it as a romance. It's got some quaint ideas about what might have been hiding in the unexplored areas of our planet. It's supposedly a '...landmark work of fantasy and science fiction.' however it's not in my favourites list.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Gibson

    This was the last novel in one of those megapacks that bundles like-type theme books. In this case: 'The Lost World.' I almost skipped it because of the curious title. But, it is actually not a bad read; it's a mixture of travelogue. natural science (a la 1820) and action/adventure. Apparently it was a big hit in the 19th century. Good for a rainy day when you have nothing else to read. Or are snowbound; or stuck on a desert island; or marooned on Mars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Roberts

    I tried to describe this book to somebody and I told them it was like H. Rider Haggard crossed with Gulliver's Travels. That doesn't quite get it, but that is as close as I can get. It isn't quite as awesome as that sounds either. I enjoyed the satire elements and how it turned the adventure story cliches on their ear but its still got long stretches that are very boring.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paige

    A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder is apparently one of the first Canadian works of speculative fiction. I love speculative fiction, so I had high hopes for this book. Vaguely reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, A Strange Manuscript blends the exploration narratives popularized during the Victorian period with utopian science fiction. If you liked Robinson Crusoe, I think you’ll like this. I, however, hated Robinson Crusoe and wasn’t too fond of A A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder is apparently one of the first Canadian works of speculative fiction. I love speculative fiction, so I had high hopes for this book. Vaguely reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, A Strange Manuscript blends the exploration narratives popularized during the Victorian period with utopian science fiction. If you liked Robinson Crusoe, I think you’ll like this. I, however, hated Robinson Crusoe and wasn’t too fond of A Strange Manuscript. A Strange Manuscript is interesting enough, as far as plot goes, but only if you can get past the unbelievable racism. Even considering the time period in which this was written, A Strange Manuscript is exceptionally racist. If you are considering picking up this book, know there are hard trigger warnings for racism and anti-semitism, among other things. The story is about a shipwrecked explorer, Adam More, and his interactions with the aboriginal race, the Kosekin, who inhabit the South Pole. It’s an epistolary novel (which I also tend to love) and the story is told through Adam’s manuscript found floating in the ocean in a copper cylinder (hence the name). Adam is a white-saviour, at his core, although he never really saves anything. He spends most of the book appalled at the Kosekin. Don’t get me wrong, the Kosekin do truly appalling things, but mostly because De Mille is actively trying to present them as savages. Initially Adam views the Kosekin and their culture as something of a utopia, but he quickly learns there’s a darker side to their apparent hospitality and altruism. (Side note: the Kosekin literally make themselves slaves to a white man because for some reason their culture demands it. When I talk about blatant racism this is what I mean. They are cannibals from a far off tribe who willingly enslaved themselves to white people. There is also speculation within the text that they are ethnically related to Jewish people based on linguistics patterns.) I also think there’s a critique of socialism here, but it was hard to get at through the blatant racism. The values of the Kosekin are essentially switched with our own. Where we value life, they hold death as the thing to which humanity should strive. The religious system is imperative to the logic of the book. However, I never got a clear understanding of how the Kosekin ideology came to be. It wasn’t fleshed out well enough for their decisions to make sense. There also appears to be more than one nation living amongst the Kosekin in the South Pole. This part of the world building is not well-established either. The geography and explanations for these nations and why the rest of the world hadn’t come across them during the age of exploration was weak. As were the explanations for the terrible monstrous animals Adam comes across. In general the world building wasn’t great and didn’t make much sense. De Mille employed so many stylistic choices I would normally enjoy, yet the book still fell flat for me. I know that it’s satire, De Mille makes that clear in the text. But whereas some authors can use satire in a way that the characters remain interesting, De Mille did not. Adam annoyed me to the extent that I lost interest in the plot. Also while it may be satirical, the satire comes across best in the romance plot. For the rest of the story, I found the satire got a bit lost in translation.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Rayes

    Not bad, bit long winded. It's really well written, his descriptions are really good and it makes it easy to imagine what the author is picturing. But when you get too the and, is feels... like there is something missing. Why did it not give another fun discussion between the chaps on the boat? Would i recommend it? Really hard to say...yes? Maybe. -_-

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is a great novel in the lost world/lost race subgenre. Four gentlemen on a yacht find a copper cylinder floating in the water. Said cylinder contains a sailor's account of how he and a comrade strayed off on an adventure in the Antarctic sea. What follows is a thoroughly absorbing adventure with a satiric bite. I won't say any more about it -- just read it! Trust me!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Damien Sanchez

    It was a short fun read, some reviews seem to critical of the book. I read an article that referenced it and I was curious to read it, so I looked it up and read it on my kindle. It was to fun to read something written over 120 years ago. This book, and after reading some reviews, has turned me onto a number of other books in this genre, I’m picking up Gulliver’s Travels next.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Salih Nedim Sen

    Everything about this weird society is disturbing and cleverly constructed and upside down even for me and I am very much into dystopian scifi and lost world scifi. I was shocked when I learned after reading the book that the story was written in 1870s. It does not feel dated.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Gaston

    My edition pre-dates the ones that are issued. It was published by "Bakka Books" in 2000. Sadly the imprint died when Bakka was sold. My rating is mainly based on the fact that this is recognized as Canada's "first science fiction novel".

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wilde Sky

    A manuscript detailing a bizarre world is found in a floating tube. Some of the writing / ideas were good, but the story really didn't hang together. Word count around 85,000 - reading time approximately 6 hours.

  30. 4 out of 5

    June

    A slow start but an interesting take on a civilization living a role reversal based on the norm. There are elements that remind me of "The Time Machine" and the style is much the same. It is a trip through a literary time machine in that it is written in the 1800s .

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