NESFA Members' Reviews

Lands Beyond

by L. Sprague de Camp and Willy Ley

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Rinehart & Co, 1952, 329 pp

This is a collection of essays on the general subject of the world beyond the map from ancient times to the great age of exploration. As long as there was some place left on Earth unexplored, people have looked for marvels: Amazon's one-eyed men (and a hundred other oddities), marvelous animals and great wealth or great learning.

Besides chronicling these wonders, de Camp and Pratt have tried to track down where the stories come from. Many, it turns out can be traced through several source back to ancient writers.

Possibly the most interesting chapter was on ancient attempts to locate the places from the Odyssey – apparently many towns claimed nearby landmarks as Odyssey sites for fame and to bring in tourists!

Other topics include Atlantis, the stories of Sinbad (many of them obviously derived from classical sources), Prester John, the Lost Tribes of Israel, various Spanish legends of fabulous wealth in the Americas, and modern foolishness about hollow Earths and the like.

We've learned a lot since this book was written, but I don't think that much they write about has been overturned.

I'd compare this with Avram Davidson's excellent Adventures in Unhistory. Same basic topic, though Davidson's book seemed to be the more erudite.

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