Title: The Lost World.
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Genre: Fiction, literature, adventure, fantasy.
Publication Date: 1912.
Summary: In novel, the author introduces his readers to Professor Challenger, an eccentric paleontologist, on his suspense-filled search for prehistoric creatures in the wilds of the Amazon. Professor Challenger's doughty troupe includes a skeptical colleague, Professor Summerlee; the cool-headed, plucky sportsman Lord John Roxton; and the narrator, the intrepid reporter Edward Malone. When their bridge to civilization collapses, the explorers find themselves marooned among dinosaurs and savage ape-people.
My rating: 8.5/10.
My review: I remember clearly being absolutely delighted with this book when I was a child. As I grew up, and had a chance to re-read it as an adult, my appreciation for it deepened (which is actually the case with a lot of Conan Doyle works for me.) I remember my first impression on picking it up again was that I was remembering it somehow wrong. That surely as much plot as I remembered couldn't fit into such a relatively short novel. That turned out to be one of the greatest of Doyle's gifts that I was unable to identify or appreciate when young - brevity. You feel like you have gone on an epic quest with the main characters, when in reality very few days pass in very few pages - but he makes every sentence count. It's impossible not to love Challenger - as can be seen with Holmes, Doyle really seems to have a knack for creating unforgettable characters that you love on the page, but would doubtfully be able to stand in real life. Professor Challenger is a force of nature - equal in both savagery and intellect (a fact that Doyle hilariously contrasts when Challenger turns out to be the spitting image of the leader of the tribe of savages they encounter on the plateau). But I think in the end of the day what I really love about this novel is that it's a perfect adventure story (albeit, I must add, is what I call a "boy adventure" story, much more targeted at boys and young men, which is another special love of mine) - everything it should ever be! An exciting and dangerous quest in an exotic location, four perfectly-matched characters (the two grouchy professors are as perfect a match as the narrator to the ever-noble Lord John Roxton), and a deeply thought-provoking ethical struggle between the "ape-men" and savage men, forcing the heroes to choose courage and honour in times of great personal fear and danger. And, of course, the dinosaurs are just the cherry on the cake - a great and exciting addition to an already great and exciting story! Very high on my list of favourite adventure novels I have re-read several times since childhood.
♥ However, come what might, I should have done with suspense and bring matters to a head tonight. She could but refuse me, and better be a repulsed lover than an accepted brother.
♥ And so it was that I found myself that foggy November evening pursuing the Camberwell tram with my heart glowing within me, and with the eager determination that not another day should elapse before I should find some deed which was worthy of my lady.
...And, after all, this opening chapter will seem to the reader to have nothing to do with my narrative; and yet there would have been no narrative without it, for it is only when a man goes out into the world with the thought that there are heroisms all round him, and with the desire all alive in his heart to follow any which may come within sight of him, that he breaks away as I did from the life he knows, and ventures forth into the wonderful mystic twilight land where lie the great adventures and the great rewards.
♥ "What sort of a meesion had you in your mind, Mr Malone?"
"Well, sir, anything that had adventure and danger in it. I would really do my very best. The more difficult it was the better it would suit me."
"You seem very anxious to lose your life."
"To justify my life, sir."
♥ "Well, what do you think of that?" cried the Professor, rubbing his hands with an air of triumph.
"It is monstrous - grotesque."
"But what made him draw such an animal?"
"Trade gin, I should think."
♥ The Professor snorted like an angry buffalo. "You really touch the limit," said he. "You enlarge my view of the possible. Cerebral paresis! Mental inertia! Wonderful!"
He was too absurd to make me angry. Indeed, it was a waste of energy, for if you were going to be angry with this man you would be angry all the time.
♥ Professor Murray will, I am sure, excuse me if I say that he has the common fault of most Englishmen of being inaudible. Why on earth people who have something to say which is worth hearing should not take the slight trouble to learn how to make it heard is one of the strange mysteries of modern life. Their methods are as reasonable as to try to pour some precious stuff from the spring to the reservoir through a non-conductive pipe, which could by the least effort be opened.
♥ "Mr Waldron has accomplished his object well, that object being to give a simple and interesting account of what he conceives to have been the history of our planet. Popular lectures are the easiest to listen to, but Mr Waldron" (here he beamed and blinked at the lecturer) "will excuse me when I say that they are necessarily both superficial and misleading, since they have to be graded to the comprehension of an ignorant audience." (Ironical cheering.) "Popular lecturers are in their nature parasitic." (Angry gesture of protest from Mr Waldron.) "They exploit for fame or cash the work which has been done by the indigent and unknown brethren. One smallest new fact obtained in the laboratory, one brick built into the temple of science, far outweighs any second-hand exposition which passes an idle hour, but can leave no useful result behind it. I put forward this obvious reflection, not out of any desire to disparage Mr Waldron in particular, but that you may not lose your sense of proportion and mistake the acolyte for the high priest."
♥ "That's the rifle I used against the Peruvian slave-drivers three years ago. I was the flail of the Lord up in those parts, I may tell you, though you won't find it in any Bluebook. There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again. That's why I made a little war on my own. Declared it myself, waged it myself, ended it myself."
♥ As to the feuds of the two learned men, they are continuous and bitter. It must be admitted that Challenger is provocative in the last degree, but Summerlee has an acid tongue, which makes matters worse. Last night Challenger said that he never cared to walk on the Thames Embankment and look up the river, as it was always saw to see one's own eventual goal. He is convinced, of course, that he is destined for Westminster Abbey. Summerlee retorted, however, with a sour smile, by saying that he understood that Millbank Prison had been pulled down. Challenger's conceit is too colossal to allow him to be really annoyed. He only smiled in his beard and repeated "Really! really!" in the pitying tone one would use to a child. Indeed, they are children both - the one wizened and cantankerous, the other formidable and overbearing, yet each with a brain which has put him in the front rank of his scientific age. Brain, character, soul - only as one sees more of life does one understand how distinct is each.
♥ Summerlee had been so interested that he had stood unresisting while Challenger tilted his head into the air. Now he shook his colleague off and came back to dignity.
"I should be glad, Professor Challenger," said he, "if you could see your way to make any remarks which may occur to you without seizing me by the chin. Even the appearance of a very ordinary rock python does not appear to justify such a liberty."
♥ "August the twenty-eights - the day we saw five live uguanodons in a glade of Maple White Land. Put it down in your diary, my young friend, and send it to your rag."
"And be ready to get the toe-end of the editorial boot in return," said Lord John. "Things look a bit different from the latitude of London, young fellah-my-lad. There's many a man who never tells his adventures, for he can't hope to be believed. Who's to blame them? For this will seem a bit of a dream to ourselves in a month or two."
♥ "Quite so," said Challenger. "I have felt it to be a sacrilege to divert a brain which is capable of the highest original research to any lesser object. That is why I have sternly set my face against any proffered scholastic appointment."
♥ I may have said somewhere in this chronicle that I am too imaginative to be a really courageous man, but that I have an overpowering fear of seeming afraid. This was the power which now carried me onwards. I simply could not slink back with nothing done. Even if my comrades should not have missed me, and should never know of my weakness, there would still remain some intolerable self-shame in my own soul.
♥ I have tried to imitate here Lord Roxton's jerky talk, his short, strong sentences, the half-humorous, half-reckless tone that ran through it all. But he was a born leader. As danger thickened his jaunty manner would increase, his speech become more racy, his cold eyes glitter into ardent life, and his Don Quixote moustache bristle with joyous excitement. His love of danger, his intense appreciation of the drama of an adventure - all the more intense for being held tightly in - his consistent view that every peril in life is a form of sport, a fierce game betwixt you and Fate, with Death as a forfeit, made him a wonderful companion at such hours. If it were not for our fears as to the fate of our companions, it would have been a positive joy to throw myself with such a man into such an affair.
♥ There are strange red depths in the soul of the most commonplace man. I am tender-hearted by nature, and have found my eyes moist many a time over the scream of a wounded hare. Yet the blood lust was on me now. I found myself on my feet emptying one magazine, then the other, clicking open the breech to re-load, snapping it to again, while cheering and yelling with pure ferocity and joy of slaughter as I did so.
♥ "We seem to be drifting very far from the object of this expedition, Lord John. I assure you that I little thought when I left my professional chair in London that it was for the purpose of heading a raid of savages upon a colony of anthropoid apes.
♥ Challenger's eyes were shining with the lust of slaughter.
"We have been privileged," he cried, strutting about like a gamecock, "to be present at one of the typical decisive battles of history - the battles which have determined the fate of the world. What, my friends, is the conquest of one nation by another? It is meaningless. Each produces the same result. But those fierce fights, when in the dawn of the ages of cave-dwellers held their own against the tiger folk, or the elephants first found that they had a master, those were the real conquests - the victories that count. By this strange turn of fate we have seen and helped to decide even such a contest. Now upon this plateau the future must ever be for man."
It needed a robust faith in the end to justify such tragic means.
♥ I may say that [Challenger] seemed to possess an extraordinary fascination for the Indian women, and that he always carried a large spreading palm branch with which he beat them off as if they were flies, when their attentions became too pressing. To see him walking, like a comic opera Sultan, with this badge of authority in his hand, his black beard bristling in front of him, his toes pointing at each step, and a train of wide-eyed Indian girls behind him, clad in their slender drapery of bark cloth, is one of the most grotesque of all the pictures which I will carry back with me.
♥ With much labour we got our things up the steps, and then, looking back, took one last long survey of that strange land, soon I fear to be vulgarised, the prey of hunter and prospector, but to each of us a dreamland of glamour and romance, a land where we had dared much, suffered much, and learned much - our land, as we shall ever fondly call it.