Reviews by Henry L. Ratliff

Afloat in the Forest

by Mayne Reid

(1867) Young Reader / Adventure(Survival)

R: * * *

Plot bullets

  • The Trevannion brothers, Ralph and Richard, go to South America to seek their fortunes as miners. They have an agreement, to go back home, when they have made enough money to reclaim the ancestral home.

  • After a while, Richard seeks adventure in the Amazonian forest. Fifteen years later , Ralph and his son and daughter, plan a to travel to Richard, so they can fulfill their agreement.

  • He and his family and a friend travel down the Amazon River. They have only a final leg of the journey to make, down the river Solimoes. The journey is undertaken, even though the proper number of paddlers and guides, could not be obtained.

  • One native Indian of the Mundurucu tribe, will prove to be the salvation of all. .He knows the Amazon and it's animals and plants. He knows how to survive in the jungle, and that knowledge will be needed before the journey ends.

  • Misfortune strikes the party as the boat leaves the river channel and is lost in the vast flooded Amazon basin. It is known as 'The Gapo'. This would be bad enough but a violent storm wrecks their boat and leaves them with perhaps hundreds of miles of water between themselves and any land.

  • They are trapped on a vast fresh water sea which has flooded to the tops of the forest trees. Those tree tops are their only refuge. They are indeed, 'Afloat in the Forest'.

Reid's adventures are in the vein of those young reader adventure stories that supply fast and continuous perils to the brave, honest and upright characters.

He also, like Vern and others, explains things and events in an almost almanac fashion. Not a plant, animal or event is left undocumented. So, the pace is peril, scientific insight and resolution. In this story it is the Indian's knowledge and the young boys elaboration from his education that inform.

Reviewed on 2014.08.20

West Wind Drift

by George Barr McCutcheon

(1920) Adventure (Survival) / Nautical (Ship Wreck) / Thriller (Sabotage) / Romance

R: * * * *

Plot bullets

  • A passenger/cargo ship is disabled, at sea, due to wartime sabotage. The sabotage is found out too late. A frantic search discovers some bombs before they can do damage, , but others explode.

  • Most of the people on board survive. The ship however, is disabled, and is in constant danger of sinking due to storm and wind. A stowaway, on-board, quickly becomes the ships best possibility of preservation, due to his experience with men and his skill for organization, in South American mining camps.

  • The ship and it's survivors drift westerly to an uncharted island. They plan for a long stay on the island, even as they hope for rescue.

  • The stowaway once again stands out as a born leader. With his help, a regular community is formed and life settles down. It settles down as well as can be expected with several hundred people forced together on a small island with no immediate hope of rescue.

  • Unlike the ship, the people have an opportunity to work together and chart a new course for themselves. The ship had no choice. It was at the mercy of the 'West Wind Drift'.

Reviewed on 2014.08.19

The Late Mrs. Null

by Frank R. Stockton

(1886) Humor (Situation) / Romance

R: * * * 8

Plot bullets

  • A man wants to insure that his prospective fiance has no current attachments.

  • He goes to a unique bureau that supposedly can find information about anything. He wants information about the girl's former suitor.

  • His problems have just started. Not only are the bureaus claims much exaggerated, but a girl that works there seems to take on a personal interest. Not in the man but his mission.

  • The man moves to the country to be near the woman he loves and in hopes of meeting and dealing with his former rival.

  • There are many unexpected connections with which to deal, the girl he loves, his former suitor, the bureau girl living under an assumed name, as Mrs. Null and the most formidable, that girl's aunt.

  • We have two couples that are mismatched, family feuds, hidden and misplaced affections and there is still that aunt that works plans of her own.

  • Null is a zero value at best. The bureau girl becomes a prime player as she pursues her deception as 'The Late Mrs Null'.

Reviewed on 2014.08.18

Off on a Comet

by Jules Verne

(1911) Sci-fi (Catastrophe) / Adventure (Survival) / Satire (Pride/Nationalism)

R: * * *

Plot bullets

  • Captain Hector Servadac and his aid Laurent Ben Zoof, of the French Algerian Army ,awake one morning to find that they are in a somewhat different world than when they went to bed. Gravity has seemed to lessen, familiar land marks have changed and there is a consistent undefinable surface rock just underneath all the ocean and land, to mention a few oddities.

  • In their searching for answers, they meet up a second time with a Russian, Count Wassili Timascheff as he sails on his yacht. He joins the search.

  • They meet few other humans. There is a group of British soldiers at what is left of Gibraltar, a young girl, a greedy merchant and an unfortunate group of misfits.

  • They begin to form a hypothesis as to what has happened. Their ideas are confirmed when they meet up with scientist Palmyrin Rosette. He confirms that a comet grazed the Mediterranean. There was no mass extinction. The comet just carried away a huge chunk of the Mediterranean on it's back.

  • All might not be lost. The comets orbit will return them to Earth. The little group must learn to survive until that time and plan for a way to get back on Earth as the comet makes it's anticipated pass.

  • They must survive the journey and the return, those that would be, however reluctantly 'Off On A Comet'.

If it wasn't so satirical, it would be uninteresting to read. The ending, if there is one, is disappointing.

Reviewed on 2014.08.15

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