Journey of Niels Klim to the World Underground ***
By Ludvig Holberg

I must admit that the three star rating is simply due to the fact that today’s author’s stand on the shoulders of literary giants, who have already shown that balancing narrative with imagery and dialogue makes a story that pulls readers in. My modern expectations interpret this antique tale as dry. I actually sought out and read this story because my next novel is inspired by Holberg’s mind baby, Hollow Earth. I prefer to imagine it as a series of tunnels and caverns illuminated by bioluminescent flora, but the planet within planet inner world Holberg presents is creative. Read up on my progress and my protag’s blog at LARC-SciFi(dot)com/lettersaboutrealconspiracies.html or join my mail list at the bottom of the page to keep up on my latest book reviews.

Our hero, Niels Klim falls into a cavern while exploring and ends up on another planet nestled within our own hollow one. He meets tree people who don’t believe in religion and let both genders participate in government. This idea was likely progressive for 1741, the books original publication date. Klim fights the power and launches a recurring theme of sexism. One of the main plot drivers is a recurrence of women throwing themselves at Klim. Talking trees I can buy. A land where women are desperate for the love of an alien stranger? Not so sure, especially when he’s out to dash their civil rights.

He encounters another land of talking animals where they practice the caste system. It’s quite apparent (to me anyhow) that Holberg was using fantasy settings to make social commentary without fear of judgement. 

I thought the old Planet of the Apes movies were great for that. I now wonder if the author drew his inspiration from this work.

As a hero, Klim has incredible highs and evil lows. It made me wonder if we were even meant to like the character. Personally, I found his fickle ethics despicable. When you consider the heavy delivery of narrative, I wonder if the story was actually meant to be received like it were the rambling nonsense of the town’s crazy guy.

All things considered, this story would likely have received at four or five if I were a part of Holberg’s culture and era. It’s still worth reading. The setting and characters are so creative, they’ve inspired conspiracy theorists and fiction writers for nearly three hundred years!

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