28 January 2016

Review: The Lost World and Other Thrilling Tales by Arthur Conan Doyle

Trade paperback, 349 pages
Published 2001 (contents: 1910-13)
Acquired and read August 2014
The Lost World and Other Thrilling Tales
by Arthur Conan Doyle

I felt like I should reread The Lost World, having last read it as a child-- assuming I did read it and not some Great Illustrated Classics edition-- given it dealt with a scientist character just after the Victorian era. This book seems like it should be exciting, but it felt like one of the duller Jules Verne translations to me: Doyle mostly just wants to prove he did his research. Challenger himself is always entertaining; the minutiae of entering an inaccessible plateau less so. This is one of those books I wanted to like more than I did, though I suppose we must give it credit for being an early example of the literary dinosaur.

This volume contains three other stories. The first is the short Challenger novel The Poison Belt, which feels like Doyle's take on The Purple Cloud, In the Days of the Comet, or other similar turn-of-the-century apocalypses. Basically everyone except Challenger and his pals are killed by toxic gases (luckily, Challenger deduces their existence just before the Earth encounters some)... but then it turns out they were all just asleep. Admittedly, some cities do burn down, and humanity resolves to be better as it rebuilds, but it still feels an awful cop-out. It's nowhere near as good as the tales it's aping.

Finally there are two non-Challenger sf tales by Doyle, of which I have no memory, except that one involves an airplane. Take that as you will.

Next Week: Professor Challenger returns in When the World Screamed & Other Stories!

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