Alternate history/hollow-Earth jaunt (cf. Richard A. Lupoff's riotous Circumpolar/, etc.) from the author of Master of Space and Time and The Secret of Life. In alternate 1836, young gentleman Mason Algiers Reynolds sets off with his un-servile slave Otha and his dog Arf to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he's swindled, robbed, then accidentally kills a stableboy, flees--only to end up in Richmond, in the employ of Edgar ""Eddie"" Allan Poe. Eddie explains the wacky theories of Captain Symmes, to the effect that the Earth must be hollow, because it would entail ""a great saving of stuff."" Then along comes Jeremiah Reynolds, explorer and Poe's acquaintance, who plans to pay for a balloon expedition to the South Hole with counterfeit banknotes. (Poe, alas, is already quite mad, and on the voyage south kills his young bride, then extracts all her teeth as keepsakes.) Sure enough, the explorers fall through the South Hole into the hollow Earth, where, after various adventures, they come upon a black-skinned, god-like race, who are sustained by ineffable aliens resembling giant sea-cucumbers. Eventually, Jeremiah is murdered by the natives; Mason finds a mate; the survivors discover a flying saucer and in it fall through into our world; Poe meets his alter ego and is killed by him; and Mason pretends to be a black while the dark suntan he acquired in the hollow Earth fades. Hard-working and inventive but neither amusing nor involving: a strained, rather grim adventure, uneasily oscillating between gothic and slapstick.