Doyle, Arthur Conan
About the Author:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 22nd May 1859. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and then worked as a ship's surgeon, sailing to West Africa and the Arctic. Whilst working in England he began supplementing his income by writing stories for The Strand Magazine and created one of the most enduringly popular fictional characters; Sherlock Holmes. Doyle's first wife, Louisa, died in 1907 and he subsequently remarried to Jean Leckie. His son Kingsley, by Louisa, was killed in the First World War and he later dedicated himself to Spiritualism, leading to a schism between him and his good friend Harry Houdini. Doyle died of a heart attack on the 7th of July 1930.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
2 out of 5
The Lost World
The first of a series of adventure stories featuring the willful Professor Challenger. In this one, Challenger claims to have discovered a plateau in South America where prehistoric creatures still roam the Earth. The London Zoological Society responds by sending a team of worthy volunteers into the Amazonian jungle to prove or disprove the claims of the antisocial Professor. The team consists of Challenger, his chief scientific rival Professor Summerlee, the big game hunter Lord John Roxton and Edward Malone, a journalist.
As someone who has long loved the Sherlock Holmes stories and who has been interested in dinosaurs uninterrupted since I was a child, I had long wanted to read this particular book. Sadly, I found it to be something of a disappointment.
This book is clearly intended to be an adventure story in the grand 19th Century style but it comes off feeling like a cheap knock-off. Doyle uses the old conceit of telling the story through the letters of one of the main characters, but it's actually rather clumsily done in such a way as to rob the story of much of its drama. Also, the author clearly intended Challenger to be his next great creation but where Holmes' lack of social skills actually adds to the character's mystique, the fact that Challenger can't interact with another character without an argument actually makes him entirely unlikable and detracts from his credibility as the supposed brains of the operation.
Another failing for this book is that there's a great deal in it which has not stood the test of time. By this, I mean specifically the attitudes and descriptions of the various 'Indians', not to mention the hideously stereotyped 'negro' that Challenger and his white companions treat more or less like they would a faithful pet. Sure, attitudes were different in 1912, but that doesn't make it okay.
Sadly, this book's greatest disappointment is the titular lost world itself. We're fully halfway through this not-lengthy book before the exploration of the plateau begins and there is a total lack of drama or wonder in regard to this group of men encountering the prehistoric creatures there. Far more time is devoted to focusing on the 'Indians' who live on the plateau than is dedicated to the fact that there are frigging dinosaurs there! There is one good, tense scene in which Malone desperately flees through the nighttime jungle with a carnosaur on his tracks, but beyond that the mighty prehistoric beasts are treated as little more than a curiosity.
Very, very disappointing. If you want good Doyle, then read my favourite of his works 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. If you want a good adventure story, read some Jules Verne. If you want a good dinosaur story, read Michael Crichton's infinitely superior 'Jurassic Park'.
2 out of 5