Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book Review: Brad Steiger's Atlantis Rising

By Brad Steiger
Galde Press, MN: 2007
193 pages. $14.95

About thirty years ago, a schoolboy walked into a local bookstore and noticed a misplaced book: a paperback with a Frank Frazetta cover had been inadvertently placed in the science fiction section when it should have been in the esoterica aisle (as it was called back then). Intrigued, he leafed through it and found himself spending at least half an hour reading at the store, too irresistible to put down. After buying it, he continued perusing its contents on the bus back home; the next day, the book accompanied him to school, where he read it during class time, keeping it from the watchful, restless eyes of Sister Lewis Marie.

The book with the Frazetta cover was called Atlantis Rising, its author was Brad Steiger, and the inquisitive schoolboy was me.

Atlantis was always a name to charm anyone with an interest in antiquity, real or legendary. Comic books like Korg: 70,000 BC pitted cavemen against red-tunicked Atlanteans with high technology, Robert E. Howard’s Conan The Barbarian was set in the centuries after the fall of Atlantis. Movies about Atlantis and its lethal death rays filled the afternoon hours: Captain Nemo found Atlantis; James Bond destroyed it in The Spy Who Loved Me. In the 19th century, supporters of the lost continent rioted in the streets for love of their idealized paradise. But all of these references were clearly framed in the realm of fiction. Atlantis Rising was the first book in paperback form to reach an audience who knew about Atlantis, but not nearly enough. A book that reach deep into the bag of mystery to give its readers a feel for the multiple and marvelous theories regarding the lost continent in what we tentatively refer to as the “real world”.

It took Brad Steiger’s gift of making the arcane accessible to the unspecialized reader, supporting his texts with facts, figures and dates, to make the drowned continent emerge from its watery grave on paper. A reader who might have heard of Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World was now treated to the prophecies of Edgar Cayce, the underwater research of Dr. Manson Valentine, the possibility of Atlantis still surviving in our day and age as an undersea civilization responsible for UFO phenomena, and the possibility that certain mystics among us were in touch – through what later became known as “channeling” – with entities from the lost continent. No longer was Atlantis confined to the sword-and-sandal world of Harryhausen’s Atlantis: The Lost Continent (and its convincing ray gun) but a place, or at least a concept, approached by these multiple theories.

Particularly stunning was a chapter whose title still carries a distinctive ring in later years – “An Inner Earth Empire of Masters and Monsters.” It is quite possible that to many readers, this was their first taste of the writings of Richard Shaver and theories involving the Elder Race and their descendants: the Apollonian Teros and the insanely Dionysian Deros, misguidedly using the “mech” of the Elder Race to cause mayhem among surface dwellers and further debase themselves. No concept or image could be further from the concept of a pseudo-Grecian Atlantis whose towers, brave warriors and fair ladies slipped into the drink after a storm that forever changed the world and made the Atlantic Ocean supposedly unnavigable for generations.

It’s difficult to render an objective opinion on a work that has meant so much to so many over the past three decades, and is now available to a whole new readership thanks to Galde Press. My own reading of Atlantis Rising was set against the background of Puerto Rico’s nearly constant UFO activity in the 1970s and the belief that the island was one of the remnants of the lost continent, a notion bolstered by the presence of the enigmatic mountain rainforest of El Yunque and the affirmations of many sensitives and mystics of its affiliation to the sunken continent. Human disappearances at this site, and the reports of impish beings, could easily feed into a belief of Dero mischief. The contemporary reader will be treated to theories and cases that go beyond the routine paranormal fare of ghosts and Roswell, and those who read it in the past may find themselves remembering concepts that faded from memory over the years under the weight of new information and insights.

The bottom line: if you are a student of the paranormal, read Atlantis Rising. If you are interested in the possibility of a pre-human civilization whose legacy surrounds us in the shape of inexplicable works of architecture and strange artifacts, read Atlantis Rising. If you are an enthusiast of the Atlantis of fiction, expand your horizons by reading this book and you may never think about comics, movies or boardgames the same way again. I can only hope that thirty years from now, some other young person sets aside whatever electronic entertainment the future has in store for them and comes across a copy of this seminal work. Read it and be enlightened!

-- Scott Corrales, INEXPLICATA