Two scuba divers attempt to solve the mystery of a lost continent.
There was something decidedly unusual about the dead body found floating off the coast of Cuba. The wool of his garment, while only twenty years old, was from an animal extinct for over nine thousand years. A group of professional scuba divers, including Lord Henry Basingstoke and his friend, Rodrigo Quintas, eagerly search the ocean bed for clues. But when they find a mysterious underwater vehicle, a fun vacation becomes an obsessive quest to be the first to solve the mystery. A daring journey back through time takes them to a hidden land of rainforests, deadly creatures, and a doomed civilization. A place where nothing is what it seems. And the longer they stay, the more their adventure becomes, quite literally, a race against time.
Taking careful inventory of our supplies, I nibbled a chocolate Bourbon biscuit Rodrigo gave me. Each now dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt--his was cream, mine was maroon--we flung the heavy bags over our shoulders and sauntered up the verge toward the forest.
As we approached the first emerald thicket, I slowed to a creep. The place seemed conspicuously quiet, and I sensed we were being watched.
"Keep a sharp eye," I said, wrenching a rotten branch to one side. "We're not alone."
The oppressive gloom ahead felt thick, tropical, over-cooked: a hotbed of stakes holding up an evergreen roof. Rodrigo stretched the front of his t-shirt to soak up sweat from his forehead. Our guns handy, we pressed on. After a while, insect noises drowned out the silence.
The first half hour was hard going. Without a machete, forging a route through the brush proved taxing. On some of the taller trees, the buttress roots were so pronounced we had to negotiate an insanely convoluted route just to walk around them. Rodrigo explained how these buttresses provide stability for tropical rainforest trees, whose roots are ordinarily not as deep as those in temperate zones. Apparently, these ridges can reach thirty feet in height before blending fully into the trunk; the highest we came across was closer to fifteen feet.
Rays of intense sunlight extended to the forest floor every now and then, illuminating all manner of insects and dry particles in the air, similar to a cinema projection beam in a darkened theatre. As we stopped to rest, I tried to absorb as much of this humid realm as I could.
"I wonder how much of this is extinct in our own time," I said.
Rodrigo sighed. "We're talking paleobotany come to life, that's for sure. I didn't even realize there was ever a land mass where we're standing, so Christ only knows how far back this is."
"Tell me about it. Dumitrescu said the fabric was from an animal that vanished nine thousand years ago. He never said how long the species was actually around."
"Would it have made a difference?" Rodrigo asked.
"Well, I have to say, Baz, this is the most reckless time travel I've ever been a part of."
I laughed. "Don't thank me now. We're not even lost yet."
His faced remained deadpan as he shook his head and replied, "English optimism."
A remarkable acoustic effect was created by the dainty chirruping of birds we could only partially glimpse, perched high above us, atop lofty lianas. These adaptive, draping vines either climbed into the tree canopy, reaching for sunlight, or started life already up there and sent roots down to the ground.
Rodrigo took to naming new, strikingly colored species of birds he spotted through these creepers as a means of keeping his spirits up. It proved a helpful distraction for me, also, from the ever-so-elusive rustling sound I swore kept pace on either side. By the time our path opened up into a stunning glade awash in a deluge of sunlight, my friend had named over a dozen fresh, possibly endemic, species: 'Nice With Soya Sauce', 'Robin Under-the-Hood' and 'Luke Vinewalker' are the ones I can recall.
A Caribbean Adventure to Dream Of
Appleton, Robert. The Basingstoke Chronicles. Aloha, OR: Uncial Press, 2009.
Who does not long for “an impromptu Caribbean adventure, without a care in
the world”? For the armchair traveler who yearns for days of yore, The
Basingstoke Chronicles by Robert Appleton is the perfect answer. After being
introduced, in the prologue, to this first-person account by Lord
Basingstoke on a “winter’s night [December 16th, 1901] on the shingle of Ten
Gulls Beach in Devon, southern England”, the first chapter transposes the
reader to a more recent, though still distant, “grey evening in 1979, a few
miles outside Bucharest…”
Arriving at a semi-annual Archaeological Society get-together with his good
friends, the guileful Lord Brooke and the beautiful Lady Brooke, “fine
archaeologists both”, the slightly tipsy Lord Basingstoke finds the gothic
stone decorated home of Georghe Dumitrescu, “a wealthy industrialist of some
note in Eastern Europe”, much smaller than he had imagined. Immediately
establishing rapport with Lord Basingstoke by swigging in tandem from his
hip flask, his seemingly empathetic host horrifies the distinguished
gathering by presenting the riddle of a partly decomposed body as the centre
point in his “personal prologue to the evening”. Most startling of all was
the fine Incan embroidered clothing in which the partially incinerated and
fully drowned victim had been found drifting off the Cuban coast two weeks
The next setting, naturally, is Cuba, in which less rarified environs the
narrator at once becomes Baz, Lord Brooke Sam, and Lady Brooke Ethel, whose
flirtation with Baz adds a touch of spicy romanticism to the tale. Meeting
up with Rodrigo, his companion for the adventures to come, the focus is from
now on fully directed towards the scuba diving expedition on which they are
about to embark. But first, the author reveals his familiarity with Cuban
topography in his description of Jagua Bay, in Cienfuegos, the “Pearl of the
South”, as “once a stalking ground for pirates and corsairs”. Appleton’s
cracking pace of narration flows smoothly and poetically, faster than the
tides, while, at the same time, conjuring up visions of the Caribbean,
always alert to “savor the pungent balm of a saline breeze”. The reader is
inevitably drawn into the narrator’s love of the sea, a love that surely
embodies the author’s own admiration for the underwater
At the core of this fast-paced novel lies the questioning of the stabilizing
nature of time as “embedded in the fabric of cause and effect” emanating
from Baz’s discovery of a time machine lying at the bottom of the ocean. And
so to pre-existing times…
The scientific explanations of phenomena present in Appleton’s fictional
scenarios not only show how knowledgeable he is about such natural features
as tropical rainforests, but also add significantly to the realism of the
scenes depicted. Baz’s sense of affinity with the bear, that he later names
Darkly after the forest in which he appears, strengthens the reader’s
awareness of the narrator’s (read author’s) appreciation of the natural
environment. The keen interest shown in other lands and places reveals
itself in the detailed descriptions of the village life that the chief
protagonists encounter on the island of Apterona.
Possessing the descriptive power of a modern day Jules Verne and the
narrative pace of a twenty-first century Sir Rider Haggard, don’t let Robert
Appleton’s easy flowing, yet thoughtfully worded, adventure just drift on
-- Lois C. Henderson
Bitten By Books
5 Tombstones (Highest Rating)
Lord Henry Basingstoke searches the world over for adventure, spending his time on research and discovery. His wealth and station in life have made the world his playground.
When a corpse is found floating in the Caribbean Sea, Lord Henry and his cronies cannot pass up the challenge to investigate the bizarre mystery. The Enigman is wearing a garment only twenty years old but made from an animal extinct for over nine thousand years.
When Lord Henry reaches the sight, he stumbles across a technology from a distant future that has the power to send them through time. Lord Henry now has the ability to retrace the footsteps of the Enigman and return to an ancient time with a civilization advanced beyond comprehension.
The Basingstoke Chronicles is a novel any speculative fiction fan would enjoy. Robert Appleton’s creative mind runneth over with imagination, and we as readers are the lucky recipients of that creativity . For those of us who long for stories in the vein of Wells and Verne, we now have it with The Basingstoke Chronicles.
The novel has time travel, ancient civilizations, mythical creatures and locations and natural disaster. I could not ask for more.
I felt in the moment with the characters throughout the book. Every discovery made, I was a part of, every disaster averted, I felt relief. This is the kind of book that makes you hope the author has more installments planned in the future. I believe, if continued, it has a great chance to become an epic series. I guess by now you can tell I highly recommend The Basingstoke Chronicles.
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