Review: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World

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Turning through the first few pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous book that wasn’t about Sherlock Holmes, one feels the immediate excitement of embarking on a great adventure in an exotic location with an impossible threat.  In that sense, Lost World resembles Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The pompous, iron-willed Professor Challenger, naïve news reporter Malone, Blackwater contractor big game hunter Lord John Roxton, and the search party’s skeptical Professor Summerlee set out to prove or disprove Challenger’s claim that dinosaurs are living on an isolated plateau in the Amazon.

The group journeys to the location, but the path they took is immediately and mysteriously cutoff.  Since they cannot go back, they take advantage of the scientific opportunity to explore the lost world.  The presence of dangerous dinosaurs is soon confirmed, but what makes the novel most engaging, credible, and chilling is what happens next.  It turns out that the Brits face an indigenous foe more dangerous than dinosaurs—man.  This compelling aspect of the storyline is often skipped or glossed over by movie versions of Lost World.

The imperial arrogance and racial depictions in the book will rub many contemporary readers the wrong way.  But those who are willing to accept that those were the prevailing attitudes of readers in Doyle’s era, and focus on the adventure instead, will find a tale well worth reading.

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