Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Lost World (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The Lost World
(The Professor Challenger series, Book 1)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Adventure/Sci-Fi
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: Malone, a hapless reporter, has been - yet again - spurned by his love Gladys, who yearns for a hero to hitch her wagon to, that she may bask in his reflected glory. For the sake of her hand, he heads to his editor and requests the most dangerous, most challenging assignment on the books... little realizing how his life is about to change.
Professor Challenger, recently returned from South America, shocked England with his claims of finding prehistoric monsters on a remote plateau in the Amazon Basin. Without sufficient proof, he is quickly labeled a liar and a braggart - slanderous allegations that lead the hot-blooded man to blows with his detractors, not to mention the few reporters brave enough to approach him. Into the lion's den Malone marches. Unexpectedly, he comes away convinced of the professor's claims... and, when a return expedition is proposed, to prove or disprove Challenger's tale once and for all, Malone finds himself volunteering.
Hostile natives, poisonous snakes, uncharted swamps, impassable cliffs... all before even reaching the plateau, where even greater dangers await the expedition. The love of Gladys may well be the death of him.

REVIEW: One of the landmark "lost world" adventure tales, Doyle's story weathers the years well. Surrounded by singular characters and moving at a brisk pace, The Lost World takes readers into the heart of the Amazon, to a world that, even today, remains a scientific enigma... if a significantly more threatened enigma than it was in the author's day. Naturally, the rumors of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties prove only too true - and, like many such relics, they're all too eager to snack on these new, pale-skinned little treats that so obligingly wander into their domain. By today's standards, of course, Doyle's dinosaurs seem dated, but they nonetheless retain a certain sense-of-wonder fascination, as does his "lost world." I also wouldn't vouch for the scientific accuracy or plausibility of Malone's adventures, but this is an adventure yarn, not a science journal; it's no coincidence that the story is viewed through the eyes of the layman Malone rather than Challenger or the other members of the expedition. Touches of humor underlay the action, with the larger-than-life characters clashing even amid mortal danger. It earned an extra half-star by hooking me into staying up late to finish reading it. (I also just finished reading an exceptionally disappointing book, which I admit may skew my perceptions slightly.)

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