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The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Lost World is a novel released in 1912 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle concerning an expedition to a plateau in the Amazon basin of South America where prehistoric animals (dinosaurs and other extinct creatures) still survive.

It was originally published serially in the popular Strand Magazine during the months of April 1912-November 1912.

The character of Professor Challenger was introduced in this book. The novel also describes a war between Native Americans and a vicious tribe of ape-like creatures.
The Lost World by Arthur Conan DoyleThe Lost World (fiction)
Arthur Conan Doyle (Author)
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This was the first of Conan Doyle's Professor Challenger stories, and arguably still the best. Narrated by journalist Edward Malone, this is the tale of how he went about meeting Professor Challenger, and hopefully uncovering a hoax, but instead found himself on an expedition with Challenger, Professor Summerlee, and Lord John Roxton. 

Since Professor Challenger has come back from South America no one will believe him about strange creatures, even though he shows his evidence. In the end a small expedition is mounted to determine whether Challenger is pulling a hoax, or indeed has found un undiscovered area, where dinosaurs still walk the Earth. 

Full of adventure at the discovery of a 'lost world' our intrepid explorers have more to deal with than dinosaurs, there are also two different tribes in the area, and our group seem to be stranded for all time. Will they ever be able to return to the normal world, or even survive their trip? I suspect like many people I read this when I was still at school, but it is one of those tales that is worth reading more than once, and is great to introduce younger readers to adventure.
Three short novels (well, The Poison Belt is a novella at most) and two short stories of wildly varying quality (but consistently compelling readability: at its worst, this is still Doyle). 

First up, The Lost World: almost too well known to need a review, this is a thrilling adventure story to which I was first introduced as an infant and have reread several times since, and ensures Doyle's place in the pantheon of science fiction's pioneers (although it arguably owes more to Rider Haggard than to Verne and Wells). 

It is THE dinosaur story, and let nobody tell you otherwise. After this rattling yarn comes The Poison Belt, frankly a rather bizarre offering, with very little incident - in film stakes, the very reverse of The Lost World; but a clever and well-constructed piece, nonetheless. Make sure you read The Lost World first, and know and love the characters before embarking on the second novel with them. 

And then... well, the previous reviewers have already ripped The Land of Mist to shreds, and deservedly so. It begins by stating that the previous novels were fictional but their characters real - the point being that Doyle wishes to dissociate this defence of Spiritualism from his works of science fiction, with which it is in fact unworthy to be classed. Somehow Challenger the radical has become a closed-minded reactionary, representing just the sort of scientists he confounded before; and there are many other inconsistencies. 

Some are minor (a poison whose name Challenger forgot in The Poison Belt, and cried "Excellent!" on being reminded, now turns out to be connected to a dark secret in his past); others more serious (the Challenger who in The Poison Belt referred to "the Great Gardener" and the "uncertainty" of what happens after death has been transformed into a convinced atheist - although, of course, he becomes a Spiritualist in the end). 

Two chapters rise above, or at least out of, the mire of Spiritualist propaganda: the one which deals with an exorcism attended by Ed Malone and Lord John Roxton has some of the earlier novels' sense of excitement and adventure; and that dealing with the home life of the fraudulent medium Silas Linden seems to belong in another book altogether. 

It exists because Doyle trod in Dickens' footsteps as a social reformer, and, indeed, it evokes Dickens' work: but the horrific scenes of child abuse contained therein will turn some readers' stomachs. From this unwholesome fare we turn to the short stories - light-hearted offerings in the vein of The Lost World, crammed with Doyle's (and Challenger's) trademarks of wit, humour and utterly preposterous science. 

For these alone the book is worth the cover price (so far as I am aware, they are not available elsewhere, unlike the novels). It might be wise, unless early twentieth-century Spiritualism and the follies into which even intelligent men could be led by it are an especial study of yours, to skip The Land of Mist; but the rest of this volume would be an ornament to any library.

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