Like Monty Python's laughable character seeking a shrubbery for his uppity princess, Edward Malone, reporter for London's Daily Gazette, is an earnest young man in search of a quest. Gladys Hungerton, the flighty belle of Malone's eye, has told him quite clearly that she couldn't possibly return his love until he had proven himself in the time-honoured fashion of achieving some manly endeavour. When the Zoological Institute skeptically puts together an expedition to verify or refute the blustery Professor George Challenger's wild claims of having found an oasis of still living prehistoric flora and fauna deep in the Amazon jungle, Malone knows he has found his task and pleads with his paper's editor to give him the opportunity to join the group. Professor Summerlee, acknowledged leader of the faction at the Institute that scoffed most loudly at Challenger's claims and now appointed as observer on the expedition, Challenger, Malone and world-renowned gentleman-adventurer and sportsman, Lord John Roxton, steam up the Amazon with a contingent of porters in search of Challenger's mythical island of land that time seems to have passed by!
Men's men all, our intrepid group of adventurers, in the typical spirit of Victorian derring-do, seems to face any difficulty with that chin-up, crusty, indomitable turn of the century Brit attitude. Of course, success is as predictable as the sun rising tomorrow morning and our group finds not only a variety of living dinosaurs and Jurassic plant life in abundance but stumbles into a turf war between a tribe of primitive humans and a race of ape men that Challenger and Summerlee categorize as the elusive "missing link". A rollicking adventure, "The Lost World" reads quickly, easily and enjoyably. Having stood the test of time for almost a century, I'm sure it will last another and be just as enjoyable to our grandchildren's grandchildren.
While Challenger, a short, stocky, hirsute bull of a man is physically the complete opposite of Doyle's more well known protagonist, Sherlock Holmes, the same cannot be said of his pomposity, arrogance and mental dexterity. In that regard, he could well have been Sherlock's and Mycroft's long lost sibling. When Challenger addressed his team, trying to solve the riddle of descending a steep, intractable cliff, he opined: "The problem of the descent is at first sight a formidable one and yet I cannot doubt that the intellect can solve it." Would Sherlock have put it any differently?
Modern readers may well be surprised at the deeply entrenched racist attitudes that Doyle displays in his writing. The black porter named "Zambo", one small letter away from the more insulting term "Sambo", is clearly treated as little more than a slave and the native Indian porters are obviously thought of in much the same light. We can forgive Doyle to the extent that he is not guilty of anything more than displaying the attitudes that were prevalent in his day but one hopes the modern reader sees these despicable ideas today as mere caricatures to be sneered at and learned from without allowing them to detract from an otherwise wonderful tale.
"The Lost World" is certainly a character and plot driven story but Doyle has not left us totally bereft of atmosphere and scenery:
"For a fairyland it was - the most wonderful that the imagination of man could conceive. The thick vegetation met overhead, interlacing into a natural pergola, and through this tunnel of verdure in a golden twilight flowed the green, pellucid river, beautiful in itself, but marvelous from the strange tints thrown by the vivid light from above filtered and tempered in its fall. Clear as crystal, motionless as a sheet of glass, green as the edge of an iceberg, it stretched in front of us under its leafy archway, every stroke of our paddles sending a thousand ripples across its shining surface."
Now how beautiful is that?
Enjoy! If you've never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beyond Sherlock Holmes, this is a great place to start!
If you've never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beyond Sherlock Holmes, this is THE place to start ... the Victorian precursor to Jurassic Park! A wonderful adventure novel starring the inimitable Professor Challenger.
It's great to see THE LOST WORLD in print in a nice paperback edition. While maybe not in the same pantheon of classics as H.G. Wells' THE WAR OF THE WORLDS or THE TIME MACHINE, or Jules Verne's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH or 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, this novel certainly is a classic in its own right.Most are probably familiar with the basic plot - an intrepid, self deprecating reporter along with vain academics and a pompous sportsman set off to find a land where pre-historic beasts … more
Forget the Michael Crichton book (and Spielberg movie) that copied the title. This is the original: the terror-adventure tale ofThe Lost World. Writing not long after dinosaurs first invaded the popular imagination, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spins a yarn about an expedition of two scientists, a big-game hunter, and a journalist (the narrator) to a volcanic plateau high over the vast Amazon rain forest. The bickering of the professors (a type Doyle knew well from his medical training) serves as witty contrast to the wonders of flora and fauna they encounter, building toward a dramatic moonlit chase scene with a Tyrannosaurus Rex. And the character of Professor George E. Challenger is second only to Sherlock Holmes in the outrageous force of his personality: he's a big man with an even bigger ego, and if you can grit your teeth through his racist behavior toward Native Americans, he's a lot of fun.