Quick Reviews: Phalanxes of Atlans by F. van Wyck Mason


I greatly enjoyed F. van Wyck Mason’s historical novels The Barbarians (reviewed here) and Lysander (reviewed here). Historical adventure was his specialty. Until recently, I was unaware he had written a “lost world” novel in the style of Haggard. Phalanxes of Atlans originally appeared in the February and March issues of Astounding Stories in 1931, and was recently reprinted by Armchair Fiction in their “Lost World-Lost Race Classics” series.

Many novels of this type start off slowly, only picking up once the protagonists discover the lost world. Not so here. The story begins with explorer Victor Nelson searching for his friend Richard Alden. They became separated when their plane went down before they could return from their Arctic expedition. Nelson discovers signs indicating that Alden was taken by force. He follows the trail to a cave where he encounters bronze-armored men who keep allosaurs as attack dogs.

The leader of this group tells Nelson (in 17th century English) that he is Hero Giles Hudson, descendant of the explorer Sir Henry Hudson. “…the founder of our royal line spoke what he called English. He came from the Ice World to rule wisely over Atlans. He was the greatest Atlantean in history.” Hero Giles takes Nelson to their capitol, Heliopolis, where they learn that Alden has been captured by the Jarmuthians, a race of Beelzebub-worshipping cannibals.

From there the action moves along at a very fast pace, culminating in a daring rescue. Phalanxes of Atlans isn’t in the same league as She or Dwellers in the Mirage, and not quite as good as The Barbarians and Lysander, but is still a very enjoyable and fast read.

If that wasn’t enough, the Armchair edition includes a bonus story, People of the Pyramids by William P. McGivern, originally published in the December 1941 issue of Fantastic Adventures. No mention of this story is made on the front or back covers, so I suppose it was meant to be a surprise. Was it a positive one? Well, let’s just say that you’ll get your money’s worth from Mason’s story and leave it at that.