I read this book about 25-Apr-2005. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1947. This note was last modified Friday, 29-Apr-2005 20:25:35 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
And I can't resist adding that I read the Fantasy Press 1st edition. I've never seen any other edition of this book, and the ISFDB doesn't know of any at this time. Oh, and "John Taine" is the mathematician Eric Temple Bell.
I have five other Taine novels in Dover reprints, the first three of which were a gift from my parents many years ago. I find them interesting reading in their way. They are a kind of proto-science fiction, but really more part of the large (then) fantastic romance (old sense of "romance") genre. And of course they're also an interesting viewport into historical attitudes.
This one is about spores of alien plants, brought to Earth on a very large (and very radioactive) meteor long ago, and contained in a hidden valley, 300 miles in an oval, 14,000 feet below the mountain peaks in India. And about rivalry between commercial plant businesses (which would never be believable as the main plot motivator for a story of this scope today -- the head of the Indian Secret Service spent ten years working undercover in London on this!).
There are numerous examples of racial and sexual stereotyping that wouldn't fly today; but at that there are two female agents who are smart, resourceful, and as committed to their work as any of the others.
The illustrations (by A.J. Donnell) are interesting. His people are quite good, slick and commercial, well-rendered. But every time he has to deal with any kind of landscape feature (which is in all of the illustrations but one), it's hopeless. Those look fake, unnatural, worse than the geology of Tolkien's maps.
Maybe I'm dense, but I never did figure out what "people" the old guy from Italy represented.