The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

As much as I adore the Sherlock Holmes stories it always saddens me that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s other fiction often gets overlooked. He wrote superb historical novels, some great horror short stories (including the one the movie The Mummy was based on, tales of adventure on the high seas and just about every other genre you can think of. And he wrote science fiction. Like The Lost World.

What a wonderful novel! This was part of a children’s classics set that I’ve had for years, and I felt something adventure-like, especially after The Thirty-Nine Steps. And it definitely fulfilled my adventure urge!

Very much like Jules Vernes’ novels, The Lost World details the exploration of a hidden area in the South American jungle, where somehow the prehistoric dinosaurs and reptiles have survived. Narrated by the journalist Ed Malone, it is honestly a wonderful read

‘The Lost World’ is a rollicking boy’s own yarn. Professor Challenger leads an expedition of a fellow academic, a journalist and a gentleman adventure, to an Amazonian land where dinosaur still exist. It’s a superbly plotted tale which kept me gripped to the end.

From a more liberal twenty-first century perspective, there are some problems. The ever faithful black servant must surely have seemed something of an anachronism even in Conan Doyle’s own life-time. While the fact our four heroes help massacre the less advanced tribe on the plateau does – even with the author bending so that he can touch his heels to hammer home the glory of battle – echo the most troubling parts of colonialism. But perhaps, now, we can see the title in two ways. It’s not just about dinosaurs, but a window to a lost world of post-Victorian attitudes which have now – thankfully – vanished.

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