Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 24, 2018


Lands of the Earthquake by Henry Kuttner (1947)

A funny thing happened on the way to the Crusade.  Not knee-slapping, rib-tickling funny mind you, but...

Wait.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's move back.  Or forward.  Whatever.

William Boyce was walking one morning by the library on Fifth Avenue and woke up in Bellevue Hospital one year later with all memory of that one year erased.  The doctors said he had been found unconscious in Central Park.  They said his memory may come back in bits and pieces, all at once, or never.  Another year goes by.  Occasionally a fleeting image comes -- a mustached man, dark shadows, a strange language he later learns is Old French, and a very faint image of a disturbingly attractive woman.  And then there's this strange crystal he had found in his pocket when he was released; what was it?  Where did it come from?

Boyce has taken to wandering the city.  On day he spies a man whose image he has seen in those fleeting glimpses of memory.  He follows the man, who enters a building that is strangely familiar to Boyce.  He charges into the house, knowing where each room is, and enters a room empty save for an oddly translucent candle, which he lights.  Without knowing why, Boyce takes out the crystal he had been found with and holds it to the flame.


Boyce wakes up in a fog.  Literally.  He is outside in a strange place.  The city is gone.  He hears laughter.  The fog lifts enough to show a man furred like a tiger.  This tigerman is the Huntsman.  Hesets a pack of beasts after Boyce.  The beasts are not dogs really, but something Boyce has not seen before.  Something very dangerous.  He runs.  The beasts herd him to the edge of a cliff and appear about to attack when a knight (armor and all) appears on horseback and chases them off.  Boyce's rescuer is Godfrey Morel, or Godfrey Longshanks, and he speaks a bastardized version of Old French.  He wonders who Boyce is and where he came from.  On the chance that Boyce is a spy, Godfrey takes him to the city of Kerak to be questioned.  As they ride to the city, The ground begins to open and a chasm appears, heading toward the city.  Rings of light appear from the city's castle, touching the ground and stopping the earthquake.

The city is run by Guilluame du Bois, who, except for appearing older, is the exact likeness of William Boyce.  Boyce is aided by the magician Tancrid and by The Oracle -- a marble-like statue of a beautiful woman behind a cage of fire.

Now we learn the back story about the funny thing that happened on the way to the crusade some six centuries earlier.  A group of Crusaders found themselves in an eerie valley.  In the distance was a strange looking city and -- not being one to pass up a chance for plunder --  were determined to take it.  The city, however was empty and the Crusaders settled in and built their castle..  They soon found out that this was a land where time did not exist and space floated past the castle.  Their new world was one of a constant sun, one where they did not age.  Other cities would appear in the distance and the crusaders would trade with their inhabitants -- some of which spoke strange languages and some of which ere just strange -- until that city would float away.

Then came the day the City of Sorcerers (or, just the City) came nearby and became somehow linked to Kerak with neither city able to float away.  The City is determined to wipe out Kerak and is only stopped by the magic of Tancred.

Two things:  The City is holding Godrey Longshanks hostage and Boyce nust try to rescue him.  And Boyce thinks the mysterious woman who flashes across his lost memories lives in the City...

That's the set-up.  The story goes on from there, adding marvel upon marvel and adventure upon adventure.  Typical pulp fare enhanced by Kuttner's strong sense of plot and pacing.  If you miss the days of science fiction pulps or are a Kuttner fan (and who is not?), this one's for you.


Lands of the Earthquake first appeared in the February 1947 issue of  Startling Stories and was one of the few of Kuttner's pulp SF novels not to be reprinted by Ace Books.  It was reprinted in the May 1992 issue of Pulp Vault.  Last year it was released in paperback (bound with Howie K. Bentley's Under a Blue Sun) by DMR Books and as an e-Book from Faded Page.  The easiest way to read it is online at Internet Archive which has the February 1947 issue of Startling Stories.


  1. You seem to be mining the 1940s to great effect! I'm considering rereading Asimov/Greenberg's THE GREAT SF series...which starts with 1939.

  2. I always thought Kuttner was on the weird side, and this plot summary confirms that. This is one I wouldn't have the patience for, regardless of it's length, though 30 or 40 years ago I might have enjoyed it.

  3. I'll probaly want to read the Wellman story as well in that issue...Heinlein and Fearn don't even make the cover:

    6 • The Ether Vibrates (Startling Stories, May 1947) • essay by The Editor
    8 •  Letter (Startling Stories, May 1947): Answer---Yes • essay by Chad Oliver
    11 • Lands of the Earthquake • novella by Henry Kuttner
    11 •  Lands of the Earthquake • interior artwork by uncredited
    13 •  Lands of the Earthquake [2] • interior artwork by uncredited
    17 •  Lands of the Earthquake [3] • interior artwork by uncredited
    67 • Columbus Was a Dope • short story by Robert A. Heinlein
    67 •  Columbus Was a Dope • interior artwork by Astarita
    70 • The Disc-Men of Jupiter • [Jack Stillwell] • (1931) • novelette by Manly Wade Wellman
    70 •  The Disc-Men of Jupiter • interior artwork by uncredited
    90 • The Arbiter • short story by John Russell Fearn
    90 •  The Arbiter • interior artwork by uncredited
    102 •  Letter (Startling Stories, May 1947): Huzzahs from Lin • essay by Lin Carter
    102 •  Letter (Startling Stories, May 1947): One for the Book---the Textbook • [Letters: Marion Zimmer Bradley] • essay by Marion Zimmer Bradley [as by Marion Eleanor Zimmer]
    109 • Review of the Science Fiction Fan Publications Letter (Startling Stories, May 1947) • essay by The Editor