Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Lost World (Doyle) Book Review

by The World Weary

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Pages: 176

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There Are Heroisms All Round Us

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is a fun adventure through a dinosaur infested land. The characters are colorful and interesting and the story is exciting, but sometimes the book suffers from it’s main character’s need to explain everything.

Michael Crichton owes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a lot. Without Doyle’s original journey into a prehistoric preservation we may never have had Jurassic Park or Crichton’s The Lost World. As it stands, The Lost World is an engaging but quick read, that was one of the first times that made us dream of a world where ancient beasts could still exist.

The book follows a young Irish journalist, Edward Malone, as he tries to gain the affections of the ever aloof Gladys Hungerton. The couple meets and Gladys dreamily talks about how she desires an adventurous, bold mate. Malone seemingly possesses none of the qualities that she seeks, so he sets out to find a great quest to impress Gladys. Soon, he meets the rambunctious Professor Challenger, who informs him of a hidden land deep within the Amazon, high on a plateau, where prehistoric monsters and their ecosystem have survived. Challenger plans to lead an expedition to gather proof for his story, and in spite of his strong hatred for the press, he invites Malone. Joining them are Lord John Roxton, a famous hunter and adventurer, and Professor Summerlee, Challenger’s rival.

The first thing that will strike you about this book is the strong characterization. Professor Challenger is one of the most hilarious characters I’ve ever come across in a book. Doyle perfectly writes his giant, self obsessed, maniac, and every time Challenger was on the page I couldn’t help but crack a smile. Challenger eventually became so popular that Doyle included him in his other series and stories, many times even Sherlock Holmes worked with the Professor. The interactions between Summerlee and Challenger are ridiculous (especially if you pull yourself out of the context of the time and think in terms of modern science) as well as hilarious. All of the secondary characters are fully realized creations that help bring the book to life.

Unfortunately, Malone isn’t a very compelling character. This is mostly because the book is written as if it were some of his journals and correspondence between him and his editor (think Dracula). His motivation also didn’t ring true to me. It’s clear that Gladys never really wants anything to do with him, so his decision to go on the expedition in her name just disconnects you from the story. The way that Doyle tries to build the tension in some of the chapters also falls flat. He usually has Malone preface his letters with a short summary of what terrible event occurred before he goes on to recount the day’s events from beginning to end. Sometimes this robs the story of it’s excitement when you reach a passage that begins with a, “and now I shall finally recount those horrible moments,” or some such.

The Lost World is a fun read. Between the great supporting characters and the excitement inherent from a story that has dinosaurs in it, it truly is a classic of the fantasy adventure genre. A few poor choices in terms of storytelling and a flat protagonist do detract from the overall experience, but in spite of these minor shortcomings you’ll still have a great time reading The Lost World.

Score: 8.5

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