THE LURE OF ATLANTIS Strange Tales of the Sunken Continent Edited by Michael Wheatley
British Library Publishing, pb, £9.19
Reviewed by Christine Downes
This is a collection of short stories collated by editor Michael Wheatley on behalf of the British Library. The theme of the collection is the fabled sunken lands of Atlantis, and we have examples of works from Jules Verne, H P Lovecraft, Robert E Howard and Frances Bragg Middleton, among others.
There are ten short stories in the anthology dating from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. Nine have been previously published as standalone stories; however, the Jules Verne piece is not a standalone story but is an extract from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Also, some stories have only a passing reference to Atlantis within them, for example, Robert E Howard’s The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune. In each instance, the editor has given a short and meticulous introduction to the story and provides guidance for further reading.
This collection gives us the opportunity to read the works of a wide variety of early speculative fiction authors and to examine the development of styles over the decades. The writing is of its time and includes language and attitudes that we would find racist or misogynistic now. That being said, this is a useful resource for writers and sci-fi/fantasy fiction fans and is worth dipping into. Some stories stand up better than others, with more depth and skill in the narrative. But, of course, we are reading with the benefit of hindsight and the broad range of speculative fiction available to us in recent times.
The outstanding stories for me were Under the N-Ray by Will Smith and R J Robbins (grim and creepy on so many levels) and the Robert E Howard story previously mentioned above.
It’s worth noting that this collection is one of a group of themed anthologies issued by the British Library under the umbrella of Tales of the Weird. For more information go to www.shop.bl.uk