THE LOST WORLD by Arthur Conan Doyle

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When Gladys told Ned Malone that she could only love him if he did something truly courageous and adventurous, the young journalist despaired.  When would he ever have the opportunity to perform the heroic and extraordinary acts of bravery that Gladys demanded?  But when the investigation of a supposed scientific fraud opens the door for a dangerous expedition to the Amazon, Malone seizes the opportunity immediately (and against his better judgment).  Together with a rugged hunter and outdoorsman (Lord John) and a skeptical professor of zoology (Summerlee), Malone travels from England to South America in order to try the outlandish claims of Professor Challenger, who claims to have discovered a plateau where prehistoric dinosaurs roam, unevolved.   As their adventure gets underway, however, all quickly realize that the plateau is indeed inhabited by creatures far more strange and dangerous than even Professor Challenger had imagined . . . .

Most people are familiar with Sherlock Holmes, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s science fiction novel is every bit as exciting and engaging as his mysteries.  As with most of Conan Doyle’s works (and the writings of many of his contemporaries), you must be prepared for his racism which colors the text, particularly the portrayal of the native tribes of the Amazon and the African servant, Zambo.  But if you can accept the work as a product of its time, the adventure on the plateau and the imagining of the prehistoric monsters are quite compelling.  Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame) has cited Conan Doyle’s novel and an inspiration for his own Lost World.  But while Crichton’s stories lean heavily toward the action-thriller genre, Conan Doyle devotes considerable attention to the thrill of discovery and the explorers’ sense of wonder at the beauties and horrors of this newly-discovered (insofar as the English are discovering an already inhabited land…) world.  I highly recommend The Lost World to those who love science fiction and/or the classics, for though it is lesser known, I found it as well-written and engaging as Sherlock’s stories, though in a different way.

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