"A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder" is proof positive that Canadian science fiction has a proper history... and it's pretty great! It also amply displays the diversity of Canadian fiction in general, this time in the form of a multifaceted, multi-layered adventure tale that owes as much to Jonathan Swift as it does to Edgar Allan Poe.
The story, laid bare, is pretty standard pulp fare: a stranded sailer, Adam More, must thread his way through a bleak, volcanic Antarctic wasteland until emerging at the south pole, and into the wondrous realm of the Kosekins. At first, all seems well; the people are selfless, loving, helpful and friendly to a fault. He meets a lovely lass who becomes the story's requisite Love Interest. Things quickly fall apart from there as deep, dark cultural motivations float to the surface and our hero must mount a pterodactyl in order to save his life (and the life of his lady-love). Meanwhile, colour commentary is provided by four bored, rich chappies who've recovered the titular cylinder bobbing in the waves alongside their yacht, becalmed in the south seas.
That's not the whole story by a long shot, but you get the gist.
The book is arguably author James De Mille's finest moment, a pretty good time throughout and it's an utter shame he didn't live to see it published. If he'd only gotten off his duff and published it sooner -- never mind his dissatisfaction with the ending -- he'd be more widely remembered as a genuine literary innovator instead of an also-ran in the Lost World genre. As it stands, the work continues to entertain and even appears to have influenced 20th century horror master, H.P. Lovecraft, who apparently kept a copy in his own personal library (see S.T. Joshi's Lovecraft's Library: A Catalogue (Revised and Enlarged) for further details).
Despite the book's public domain nature and freely available status, I highly recommend the out-of-print Bakka Books edition which includes all of the original illustrations by artist Gilbert Gaul, along with an entertaining, enlightening forward by Canadian author Ed Greenwood.
UPDATE (JANUARY 20, 2012): Also consider the recently released Broadview Press edition of A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, since it also contains the original Gilbert Gaul illustrations, along with a wealth of scholarly materials concerning author James De Mille and his strange, entertaining little book.