The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Land's End - Labrador
John Russell Fearn
Battered Silicon Dispatch Box paperback $15.95

review by Andrew Darlington

In 2000 AD, Judge Dredd's Megacity One is linked by tunnel beneath the toxic 'Black Atlantic' to Europe. A decade earlier, Harry Harrison had already engineered his own undersea link between the continents when he wrote A TransAtlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! in 1972. But John Russell Fearn beat them both to it. He charted the complex construction-problems of excavating his 2,500-mile transatlantic tunnel from Cornwall to Newfoundland as early as 1959, in this short novel that only now achieves publication. Fearn was a pulp fictioneer of extraordinary invention, so what do his protagonists discover during their epic subterranean dig - lost Atlantis? A vast prehistoric realm of predatory dinosaurs? A hidden race of troglodyte cannibals, at the very least, surely? But no, intended primarily for a non-genre readership they instead encounter a seam of pure neutronium, plus magma-streams from a ruptured volcano, while they are plagued by sabotage attempts from unnamed rival eastern European powers� but no supernatural fantasias. This is largely a 'slipstream' novel of technological speculation based around the application of a new super-alloy, 'steel-x', which enables both high-tensile drills capable of penetrating hyper-compressed rock, and structural rigidity to reinforce the tunnel that results.

However, as Philip Harbottle's informed introduction explains, Fearn's ambitious concept was itself predated by a 1913 German novel by Bernhard Kellermann. Subsequently filmed twice, the second time through a Curt Siodmak script for British Gaumont films - as Transatlantic Tunnel, in 1935, the film made a deep impression on the young Fearn, who must have filed the idea away for future use. One of the first generation of UK pulp writers to break through massively into the American market of Amazings and Astoundings, working through a number of outlandish aliases, Manchester's immensely prolific 'Multi-Man' told an Autumn 1939 Tales Of Wonder #8 that "I love writing; and the older I get, the more I like it, because there is so much to learn. Every day I have the feeling that there is a chance to go one better, in style and expression, than yesterday." And Harbottle concurs, arguing convincingly that, following his initial burst of literary hyper-productivity, Fearn achieved the finest-crafted examples of his writing in his later work. Not necessarily in SF, but in his crime fiction and westerns too. Unfortunately he died of a heart attack in September 1960 aged just 52, so that process of evolving skills was prematurely curtailed. Land's End - Labrador was initially targeted for publication in the Canadian Toronto Star Weekly, hence the tunnel's unique geography! He'd been a popular contributor to its wide-circulation tabloid pages for some time, but was passed over by them just this once, and the manuscript was subsequently lost� Until now.

At last available as a beautifully packaged collector's edition, Fearn's novel retains all the retro-charm of 1950s' fiction: 'Paper thin' characters. A cheerful disregard for environmental considerations when the Land's End tip of Cornwall is ripped apart by the 'huge crater a mile in diameter' which forms the tunnel-entrance, matched to an ecological arrogance in their belief that 'man has never failed yet in his conquest of nature, and he won't this time'. There are brutal command-management staff relations as sweating miners toil beneath the ocean-floor, allied to romantically archaic gender attitudes, despite plucky little Judith Saunders becoming director of the Canadian operations when her father dies. With a quaint imperial regard for the greater glory of the Commonwealth, which the link is intended to reinforce (the first time it's possible to walk to America since the Bering Straits was a land-bridge!), all this now makes the novel something of an alternative history, as construction progresses from Spring 1991 through the precise time-fix dates of this future decade. Completed 9th September 1994, the bore - 12,500ft beneath the surface, allows the transit of a Cannonball express monorail, plus vehicle lanes and a pedestrian link with way stations and rest stops. It's almost possible to believe that somewhere, out there in some other strange continuum, this vast construction actually exists, and even now passengers are accelerating through a tunnel of steel-x far beneath the cold tides of the north Atlantic...
Land's End - Labrador

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2006 Pigasus Press