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The Lost World (1912)

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Professor Challenger (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,007852,294 (3.67)155
Professor Challenger leads an expedition to explore an isolated plateau rising above the Amazon jungles where they discover dinosaurs, primitive ape-men, and prehistoric monsters.
  1. 111
    King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (Rynooo, Polenth)
  2. 81
    Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: An obvious rec, I admit. Doyle's story is the original "modern men interact with dinos" tale and Crichton's is the best one since.
  3. 70
    The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (chrisharpe)
  4. 50
    The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Sylak)
  5. 50
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (chrisharpe)
  6. 30
    Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: Dinosaur Summer is a continuation of Doyle's The Lost World
  7. 30
    The 39 Steps by John Buchan (chrisharpe)
  8. 20
    Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson (chrisharpe)
  9. 31
    The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle (sturlington)
    sturlington: Also features the same characters.
  10. 10
    The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier (chrisharpe)
  11. 11
    Dinotopia by James Gurney (themulhern)
    themulhern: Surely this book was inspired by Conan Doyle's "Lost World", but whereas Doyle set out to tell a science adventure story w/ humor, Gurney imagines a beautiful utopia w/ dinosaur technology. Both are fun.
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English (77)  Spanish (3)  Danish (2)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (85)
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
It's alright. A very Victorian adventure story. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
The racism expressed in this book overwhelms a lot of it, its just so casual and accepted.

( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World

Being an account of the recent amazing adventures of Professor George E. Challenger, Lord John Roxton, Professor Summerlee, and Mr E. D. Malone of the Daily Gazette

Oxford University Press, Paperback [2008].
12mo. xxxi+199 pp. Edited by Ian Duncan with an Introduction [vii-xxi] and Notes [190-9].

First published, 1912.
First published as an Oxford Paperback, 1995.
Reissued as an Oxford World’s Classic paperback, 1998.
Reissued, 2008.

Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Note on the Text
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World
I. “There are heroism all around us”
II. “Try your luck with Professor Challenger”
III. “He is a perfectly impossible person”
IV. “It’s just the very biggest thing in the world”
V. “Question”
VI. “I was the flail of the Lord”
VII. “To-morrow we disappear into the unknown”
VIII. “The outlying pickets of the New World”
IX. “Who could have foreseen it?”
X. “The most wonderful things have happened”
XI. “For once I was the hero”
XII. “It was dreadful in the forest”
XIII. “A sight I shall never forget”
XIV. “Those were the real conquests”
XV. “Our eyes have seen great wonders”
XVI. “A procession! A procession!”

Explanatory Notes

==================================================​

Having recently finished the Sherlock Holmes canon, I was impressed enough with Arthur Conan Doyle to try some of his non-Sherlockian works. The only one to enjoy some popularity on its own is this fascinating mixture of 10 percent science fiction and 90 percent fantasy.

It has many flaws. To begin with, the plot feels like something that Conan Doyle made up along the way. He had the broad outline of the story beforehand, perhaps, but most of the details seem improvised. The narrative by instalments written shortly after the adventures is entirely incredible even by the tolerant standards of adventure fiction. And the language is annoyingly repetitious. Professor Summerlee is evidently a man of dangerously low pH, to judge from his “acid” smile, temper, tongue, whatever. I hardly needed to be told of “his usual touch of acidity”. As for the “drooping eyelids” of Professor Challenger, they are almost a character of their own. Also, the Victorian melodrama is a tad too much. There are too many adjectives like “hideous”, “horrible”, “loathsome”, etc., when describing the reptiles and the ape-men.

All that said, the book gained momentum along the way and finally turned into the classic adventure it is supposed to be. ACD may be lazy with his vocabulary, but he is one of the supreme storytellers in the history of fiction. Give him a shopping list, he’ll make a story out of it, and probably a good one too. The slight and rambling plot of this one is worked out with a combination of brisk pace and ready wit, to say nothing of the evocative atmosphere and some rather stimulating reflections on sundry topics. Most important of all, three of the four main characters are colourful chaps that grow on you, or at any rate they grew on me. After a somewhat slow start, I found myself rather glad to be with our quartet of intrepid explorers roaming “that strange land, soon I fear to be vulgarized, the prey of hunter and prospector, but to each of us a dreamland of glamour and romance, a land where we had dared much, suffered much, and learned much”.

E. D. Malone, our first-hand reporter and “international Rugby football player”, is a charming fellow with “Irish imagination which makes the unknown and the untried more terrible than they are”. On the other hand, he “was brought up with a horror of cowardice and with a terror of such a stigma”. This unstable background makes him just as flamboyant, though in a quieter and less obtrusive way, as the Irish gentleman from Somerset Maugham’s early story (1904). But Mr Malone has the single most important quality of the great storyteller. Honesty. He makes no secret of vanity and even pride (for a precise definition of the important difference between them, see W. H. Auden’s “Hic et Ille”) as the driving force behind his actions, but his sense of humour (Irish, I suppose) saves him from becoming a prima donna. I admit I grew rather fond of Mr Malone towards the end. Everybody who can show such candour in the face of romance and carnage deserves to be my friend:

My instincts are all against a woman being too frank and at her ease with me. It is no compliment to a man. Where the real sex feeling begins, timidity and distrust are its companions, heritage from old wicked days when love and violence went often hand in hand. The bent head, the averted eye, the faltering voice, the wincing figure – these, and not the unshrinking gaze and frank reply, are the true signals of passion. Even in my short life I had learned as much as that – or had inherited it in that race memory which we call instinct.

There are strange red depths in the soul of the most commonplace man. I am tenderhearted by nature, and have found my eyes moist many a time over the scream of a wounded hare. Yet the blood lust was on me now. I found myself on my feet emptying one magazine, then the other, clicking open the breech to re-load, snapping it to again, while cheering and yelling with pure ferocity and joy of slaughter as I did so.


Professor Challenger is, of course, very aptly named. He does challenge everything, most notably the reader’s patience. The man is more than a little satisfied with himself. To be somewhat more accurate, he is blatantly, arrogantly, obnoxiously and unscientifically satisfied with himself: “I may yet show you how a great mind moulds all Nature to its use.” By “great mind”, it should be noted at the risk of stating the obvious, the Professor means “my mind”. I shudder to think what “Nature” would look like had this type of megalomaniac been more common.

And yet, there are glimpses of some sensitivity and depth: “There are plenty of better men, my dear, but only one G. E. C.” You wouldn’t believe it (or wouldn’t you?), but this guy actually has a wife. She knows only too well he is “a perfectly impossible person”, yet she seems genuinely fond of him. What’s more amazing, he seems quite fond of her. Too bad she disappears completely after a brief glimpse in the beginning. It would have been nice to see more from that most challenging side of the Professor’s character, for his gigantic conceit and blistering sarcasm proved to be somewhat tiresome after a while. Most certainly, he cannot compete with the charisma, complexity and enduring power of Sherlock Holmes.

Professor Summerlee is a plot convention, existing on the pages solely for the purpose of acid bickering with his colleague. Lord Roxton, however, is a man of substantial charm:

I have tried to imitate here Lord Roxton’s jerky talk, his short, strong sentences, the half-humorous, half-reckless tone that ran through it all. But he was a born leader. As danger thickened his jaunty manner would increase, his speech become more racy, his cold eyes glitter into ardent life, and his Don Quixote moustache bristle with joyous excitement. His love of danger, his intense appreciation of the drama of an adventure – all the more intense for being held tightly in – his consistent view that every peril in life is a form of sport, a fierce game betwixt you and Fate, with Death as a forfeit, made him a wonderful companion at such hours.

One must wonder what made what possible, the Lord Roxton type the British Empire or vice versa. It is a matter of eternal speculation. What can be asserted beyond reasonable doubt is that Lord Roxton is a surprisingly and pleasantly updated version of the Great White Hunter.

Last but not least, the Prophets of Political Correctness, the newest world religion, would find in this novel plenty of opportunity for self-realisation. Zambo, “our devoted negro”, is introduced as somebody who is “as willing as any horse, and about as intelligent”. Personally, I think this is highly offensive – to horses who, on the average, are far more intelligent than humans. As for the accusations of imperialism and racism, they are clearly unfounded. The “Cucama Indians” may be “an amiable but degraded race” according to Professor Challenger, yet their mental powers are estimated as roughly equal to those of “the average Londoner”. Can you get any more democratic than that?

I conclude with a mathematical digression for those especially fond of astronomical ratings. The book was shaping itself rather nicely into solid three and a half stars. The final twists – for there are several – rounded the constellation to four. I can’t say any of them was very unexpected. But all of them were deeply satisfying emotionally as well as intellectually. The book isn’t as short as the page count might suggest (unnecessarily smallish font helps, too), but it’s pretty good stuff nonetheless, the grandpa of Jurassic Park (1993) that in some ways improves on it (to say nothing of its sequel of the same name!) and a lost-world adventure that leaves King Solomon’s Mines (1885) deeply buried in the African dust.

Note on the Edition

Ian Duncan’s Introduction is as fascinating and wrongheaded as only a true academic can produce. When Mr Duncan expounds the impact of palaeontology on the Victorian zeitgeist, he is informative and stimulating. It is no coincidence that the famous opening paragraph of Bleak House (1853) contains an imaginary “megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.” When Mr Duncan discourses on “imperial romance” that includes Defoe and Scott, not to mention Conrad’s “sombre parody” (nice oxymoron) of it, then the editor becomes progressively more far-fetched and less compelling. When he, finally, delves into Malone’s “Irish ontology”, he becomes frankly hilarious, unintentionally so I’m afraid. Those “red depths” Malone speaks about surely refer to the lust for blood so common to us all, so inescapably human, not to Ireland and the presumably red hair every self-respecting Irish guy or gal ought to have.

The notes are concise and, for the most part, surprisingly helpful. Having recently read Rider Haggard’s single famous book, I happened to know what “The Last Stand of Greys” is. But I didn’t know that “cuticura” and “arnica” are medicines used to treat bruises and I sure had no idea that Alfred Shrubb (1879–1964) was a famous long-distance and cross-country runner who set and broke quite a few records in the beginning of the twentieth century. Trivia like that makes one appreciate Conan Doyle’s vast curiosity. So do his scientific sources such as the Amazonian narratives of Wallace and Bates, among others, which Mr Duncan points out with precision. As usual, ACD did a great deal of reading before his writing. Nor was he afraid of confronting man’s natural savagery, romantic delusions and meagre origins.

The bibliography and chronology are excellent. The former is actually annotated in the form of essay. The latter centres on ACD’s writings, so you can get a fair idea of his productivity and versatility. As explained in “Note on the Text”, this edition reprints the first by Hodder and Stoughton (15 October 1912). The map of Maple White Land is retained, but the “magnificently lurid” illustrations from the first publication in The Strand (April–November 1912) are not. ( )
  Waldstein | Oct 1, 2020 |
I enjoyed this book about a scientist (aptly named Prof. Challenger) disgruntled by the fact that his colleagues doubt his word of discovering hitherto unknown living creatures. After a somewhat heated debate at a professional meeting in London, it is decided that an impartial group should retrace Challenger's steps to either vindicate or invalidate his claims.

The story is told in the first person by journalist Malone, mainly in reports he writes to send back to his newspaper. Despite the exciting nature of some of the incidents, the style of writing is not that of a thriller and so some readers will be turned off by that. Unlike its successor, Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, this book is less thriller and more
like an expedition report, & in addition, has some aboriginal people of various types.

I especially liked the ending though I felt a bit bad for Malone whose girl had taken up with another fellow. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 1, 2020 |
An entertaining romp in a lost world. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (186 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Autencio, GaryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailly, LouisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beecham, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bickford-Smith, CoralieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Binneweg, HerbertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
BrugueraEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carr, John DicsonPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castellani, MarioIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cecchini, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coll, Joseph ClementIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Costa, J. Lima daTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crichton, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cuesta-Pamies, MargaritaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evert, TadeuszTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fisher, JeffIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flores, EnriqueIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fontcuberta, JoanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fornies, SagarIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gallone, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gil WalkerIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grove, AllenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guzman, GabrielaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, B. J.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helling, CornelisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jover, LuisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kelly, BrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lycett, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mahieu, José AgustínTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mason, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mayo, ArtForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCready, GlenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Newsham, IanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, CatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhys, MatthewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ringer, ErhardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schweizer, HubertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Segrelles, VincenteCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Silverberg, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simon, ElisabethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Editions: 1400100860, 1400109264

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