Arthur Conan Doyle is mostly remembered for his Sherlock Holmes stories, but among his other works is this science fiction piece that sees a group of early 20th century explorers discover a land where dinosaurs continue to exist.
Our narrator, Edward Malone, is a young reporter who is in love with a wealthy woman named Gladys, but she rejects his proposal saying that she could only fall in love with an adventurer or someone who performed great deeds. This inspires him to push for more exciting assignments from his editor, who puts him onto Professor Challenger, who’s caused quite a stir and has a reputation of being violently opposed to the press.
Challenger and Malone argue, but Malone impresses him, and so Challenger explains that two years earlier he discovered a plateau in South America which appeared to home species which had become extinct everywhere else, but his photographs and evidence had been questioned. Malone attends a speech where Challenger’s findings are questioned by another scientist Summerlee. Summerlee is then put forward to travel to the plateau and prove or disprove Challenger’s story. Malone volunteers to accompany him, as does the adventurer and big game hunter Lord Roxton.
They travel to the amazon where Challenger joins them and reach the plateau, becoming stranded after two of their guides betray them, due to beef with Roxton. On the plateau they discover dinosaurs, ape men and a wealth of other creatures, fighting for survival.
This was a belter of a read, a really entertaining and gripping yarn of high adventure. ACD shows a real gift for adventure writing, keeping the thrills coming and the plot clipping along at an impressive rate.
His characterization is wonderful too, from the arrogant, aggressive Challenger, who frequently explodes and bickers with the more restrained Summerlee to his young, eager narrator. My favourite character however was the swaggering, cool headed Roxton, who’s easy charm and lust for life is extremely engaging.
Some of the dinosaur stuff is probably pretty wide of the mark, but it’s entertaining fare and life on the plateau is rendered in a vivid, gripping way. It’s an awful, beautiful world that ACD creates, teeming with peril and ensuring there are always fresh adventures awaiting until their escape.
The ending is also handled well, leaving it open for Malone and Roxton to have more adventures. Wonderful stuff.
There’s also a nice streak of wit and humour in the writing and it holds up as a cracking read over 100 years later.
Verdict: Hugely entertaining if a little dated in places, but not overly so and it still manages to be great fun and well executed by Doyle. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.