Novel: The Lost World [Professor Challenger #1]

Lost World Conan Doyle Book BlogAuthor: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1912
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction
Format: Ebook, 186 pages

The Lost World is the earliest known to me example of misadventures as a result of friendzoning. This is a story of Edward Malone – a young journalist, who is eager to take the next step with his longtime friend Gladys and propose to her in marriage. However, like a typical superficial dame born in the age of discovery and raised on Victorian romances, Gladys dreams of a man who crosses mountains on a balloon, survives in the jungle with a toothpick and a pocket knife, wrestles alligators, and dedicates his heroisms to his lady. Gladys wouldn’t have poor Ned, unless he loses a limb or something in a fight with a Bengal tiger and presents her with a pelt to be grotesquely prostrated at her feet. To prove his worth, he signs up to accompany the infamous Professor Challenger on an expedition to the lost world, where – rumor has it, – dinosaurs still roam the earth.

The introduction was worth its length in gold. Gladys’s silly arguments put a smile on my face, even though I felt terrible for Edward. I just wanted to shake him and scream, Dude, she’s just not that into you! Don’t go get eaten by big lizards, you crazy young chap! Check this out, and let me know if I’m just plain wrong:

But – oh, Ned, our friendship has been so good and so pleasant! What a pity to spoil it! Don’t you feel how splendid it is that a young man and a young woman should be able to talk face to face as we have talked? […] Well, in the first place, I don’t think my ideal would speak like that, […]. He would be harder, sterner man, not so ready to adapt himself to a silly girl’s whim. But, above all, he must be a man who could do, who could act, who could look Death in the face and have no fear of him, a man of great deeds and strange experiences. It is never a man that I should love, but always the glories he had won; for they would be reflected upon me.

What a shallow, shallow being this girl is. Nevertheless, our young amorous hero truly believes that if he tries to act like someone he’s obviously not, he can win his lady’s heart. His first obstacle on his difficult path is secluded Professor Challenger, whose reputation of crippling pesky journalists is well known in world of science. Turns out the professor possesses some evidence that a remote plateau in South America might be hiding giant prehistoric animals, but is so tired of others ridiculing him that he prefers to shun all questions regarding the subject. Finally, persuaded by Edward, Challenger tells him the story of discovery and offers to take an expedition to the region to finally put the matter to rest. He recruits Professor Summerlee as his independent witness and famous Lord John Roxton, whose adventures in the Amazon have proved him a worthy companion and guide. The four of them set for South America, and so the story begins.

The idea of dinosaurs surviving all these years in a remote jungle has been used many times since publication of The Lost World. At that time, however, it was novel and exciting. Just as the new worlds of Incas and Egyptians were being discovered in real life, the promise of what is yet to come fascinated millions. Who was to say that a possibility of ancient reptiles living somewhere without detection couldn’t be true? Just as scientists unearthed partial fossils of animals never seen before, the public thirsted to know all their secrets: who were they? how did they live? are they still out there? what would happen if one of them still walked this earth? Isn’t that fascinating? Imagine tomorrow scientists would find remains of aliens. Without a doubt, we would react in exactly the same way.

The only gripe I have with science of the book is pterodactyls (d’oh, what a weird gripe). I understand that land-bound dinosaurs had no way of leaving the plateau because of impregnable cliffs and deep chasms, but the flight-capable pterodactyls could have escaped easily and revealed themselves to the rest of the world. I could have missed something though. Also, the book has a lot in common with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot. It includes carnivorous dinosaurs that scrape the earth with their tail (or even jump upright like kangaroos) and strange race of ape-men that failed to get my attention. In fact, the part with our ancestors was the most boring to me. If it was all about the animals, I would be delighted by the craziness of the book. But the kidnapping of the heroes by the eerily similar creatures from the past got me yawning. One thing that really brought me to life at the end was the reveal of Gladys’s poor judgement. Excellent, I must say, situation irony at play!

5 comments

  1. Who doesn’t like a man who crosses mountains on a balloon, survives in the jungle with a toothpick and wrestles alligators? Gladys wanting a man’s heroisms to reflect upon her is almost psychopathically insane, but I’m with her on the rest.

  2. LOVED!! But I too wondered about the flying dinosaurs. I figured maybe they were staying for the food? Not much nearby probably. Challenger’s stool of penance made me laugh. 😉

  3. You’re definitively not alone, I also wanted to shake Malone at the beginning and shout ‘really? you’re going to risk your life for someone who doesn’t even like you that much?’. And I was glad that it didn’t end in marriage. I wasn’t interested in our ancestors either, to me the dinosaurs were the interesting bits. And Challenger – he was hilarious! You can check out my review of it if you want 🙂

  4. @Dustandsoul. Agreed, a girl has a right to dream about that hunky superman, but considering who Gladys ends up marrying in the end, I was like, Really? Really, woman?! 🙂

    @Mabel. Ah, the stool! I almost forgot! 😛 You have to appreciate the beautiful relevance of early 20th century literature humor. That’s why I love Conan Doyle.

    @Amanda. I am going to check it out right now! You know, that is the problem with old “lost world” fiction I’ve read so far: they keep bringing up the apeman. I’m not interested! Just give me more dino action! At least in this one they didn’t have the curvacious, blond damsel in distress that the creatures tried to kidnap and the heroes had to rescue…

  5. […] Novel: The Lost World [Professor Challenger #1] by Tasseled Book Blog […]

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