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Author Topic: "Time's Black Lagoon" a Good Catch for Escapist Adventure Ficiton  (Read 982 times)


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Creature from the Black Lagoon: Time’s Black Lagoon
Paul Di Filippo
DH Press Books
Buy it Now!

Universal Studios and Dark Horse Press books have joined forces to release a series of mass-market paperbacks based on the studio’s “Universal Monsters” properties. There are several currently available, including “Creature from the Black Lagoon: Time’s Black Lagoon” by science fiction author Paul Di Filippo.

Going into this review, I must make a confession: I am a huge fan of “the creature” (or the Gill-Man as he is more properly known) so I was very excited to see a novel featuring the eponymous, green, scaly monster. Still, I tempered my excitement with a sense of caution tempered by a recent viewing of that other recent attempt to review interest in the Universal Monsters, “Van Helsing”. To say that I was skeptical of this novel might be an understatement.  

Fortunately, my skepticism found little to take hold of in this adventurous tale of time-travel and prehistoric adventure.

Set in 2015 in a world suffering the calamitous effects of unfettered global warming, maverick marine biologist Brice Chalefant makes the acquaintance of one Professor Tarquin Hasselrude, an elderly survivor of a certain ill-fated expedition deep into the Amazon that ran afoul of the Gill-Man, in the book considered a cryptozoological mystery along the lines of Bigfoot by most reputable scientists.

Shunned by a skeptical scientific community, Hasselrude has carefully stored his documentary footage and a small collection of artifacts with the hopes of eventually passing the flame to a worthy protégé.  

Chalefant, who is obsessed with discovering a way through genetic engineering to allow mankind to survive the hothouse environment of 2015 sees in the Gill-Man a potential source of study and in Hasselrude a mentor.

Through the help of a physicist colleague who has invented an experimental time machine, Chalefant and his girlfriend Cody Clay mount an expedition to the Devonian Era in search of living specimens of the Gill-Man.

Instead of the violent predator of the “Black Lagoon” films, they discover a peaceful civilization of Gill-Men who live in harmony with the ocean and revere it as a Goddess.

However, all is not well. Brice and Cody soon discover that a series of calamitous events will occur which will result in the creatures’ devolution into a monstrous state. Their attempt to divert the fate of the Gill-Men will change history forever.

“Time’s Black Lagoon” expanded on the ideas about the Gill-Man presented in the original movies in a way that supplements and supports, while not in any way supplanting them – not an easy task for a well-established franchise.

The Gill-Men of the novel are admirable, community-centered creatures who have developed a harmonious lifestyle in tune with their environment, providing a stark contrast to the humans of 2015. Their transition into the rapacious monsters of the movies is introduced in a subtle way that connects the events of the novel to their cinematic counterparts in a very satisfactory manner.

While time-travel plays a large role in the way that the challenges of the story are ultimately resolved, the author wisely avoids much use of time machine as deus ex machina, a strong temptation in fantastic tales of time travel.

There are some weak points about the novel, namely that at times it seems that the author uses the tale of his evolved Gill-Men as a not-too-subtle hammer for beating home a message about the evils of modern, technological civilization, but for the most part this doesn’t get in the way of what is – at heart - a roaring good adventure tale.