The Lost World (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview

Professor Challenger's claims of dinosaurs living in twentieth-century South America may seem outlandish, but even skeptics become believers in The Lost World (1912). Part adventure story, part science fiction, The Lost World generates motifs and characters that have such long-lasting popular appeal that they constantly reappear in today's fiction, film, and television.

About the Author:
Born in Edinburgh in 1859, he was raised by a mother who ...

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The Lost World (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview

Professor Challenger's claims of dinosaurs living in twentieth-century South America may seem outlandish, but even skeptics become believers in The Lost World (1912). Part adventure story, part science fiction, The Lost World generates motifs and characters that have such long-lasting popular appeal that they constantly reappear in today's fiction, film, and television.

About the Author:
Born in Edinburgh in 1859, he was raised by a mother who early on taught him to value his family's history and the actions of heroic men. During his pre-teen years in Jesuit school, Doyle was already an avid reader and storyteller. He published his first fiction in magazines while attending medical school at Edinburgh University. His writing includes seven full-length historical novels, numerous adventure stories and tales of terror, several works of science fiction, a few pamphlets and books on wars and the military, and, late in his life, both fiction and nonfiction focusing on Spiritualism.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was both a doctor and a believer in spirits, which may partly explain why his Sherlock Holmes is one of literature's most beloved detectives: Holmes always approaches his cases with the gentility and logic of a scientist, but the stories are suffused with an aura of the supernatural. Narrated by devoted assistant Dr. John H. Watson, Holmes's adventures were so addictive that fans protested the master deducer's "death" in 1893 and Doyle had to resurrect him.

Biography

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. After nine years in Jesuit schools, he went to Edinburgh University, receiving a degree in medicine in 1881. He then became an eye specialist in Southsea, with a distressing lack of success. Hoping to augment his income, he wrote his first story, A Study in Scarlet. His detective, Sherlock Holmes, was modeled in part after Dr. Joseph Bell of the Edinburgh Infirmary, a man with spectacular powers of observation, analysis, and inference. Conan Doyle may have been influenced also by his admiration for the neat plots of Gaboriau and for Poe's detective, M. Dupin. After several rejections, the story was sold to a British publisher for £25, and thus was born the world's best-known and most-loved fictional detective. Fifty-nine more Sherlock Holmes adventures followed.

Once, wearying of Holmes, his creator killed him off, but was forced by popular demand to resurrect him. Sir Arthur -- he had been knighted for this defense of the British cause in his The Great Boer War -- became an ardent Spiritualist after the death of his son Kingsley, who had been wounded at the Somme in World War I. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in Sussex in 1930.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 22, 1859
    2. Place of Birth:
      Edinburgh, Scotland
    1. Date of Death:
      July 7, 1930
    2. Place of Death:
      Crowborough, Sussex, England

Introduction

Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel The Lost World has aptly been identified as science fiction, fantasy, gothic, a boys' book, and an imperialist adventure story. Most accurately, the novel combines elements of all of these genres. Unarguable is Doyle's success in putting aside Sherlock Holmes to explore a new type of fiction with a new type of hero: The Lost World's physical, boisterous, and acerbic Professor Challenger. Doyle was so fond of this character that he employed him in many of his later fictions: The Poison Belt (1913), The Land of Mist (1925), "When the World Screamed" (1928), and "The Disintegration Machine" (1929). Nor was Doyle the only fan. The motifs and characters of The Lost World have had such long-lasting popular appeal that they constantly reappear in fiction, film, and television.

Adventure stories such as The Lost World came naturally to Arthur Conan Doyle. Born in Edinburgh in 1859, he was raised by a mother who early on taught him to value his family's history and the actions of heroic men. During his pre-teen years in Jesuit school, Doyle was already an avid reader and storyteller. He published his first fiction in magazines while attending medical school at Edinburgh University, and the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in 1887. Today Doyle is certainly best known for the Holmes stories, but they do not represent the bulk of his life's work. Indeed, the breadth of his writing is remarkable and includes seven full-length historical novels, numerous adventure stories and tales of terror, several works of science fiction, a few pamphlets and books on wars andthe military, and, late in his life, both fiction and nonfiction focusing on Spiritualism. As prolific as he was, Doyle also worked as a physician and eye specialist, a detective, and a lecturer on behalf of Spiritualism. He had two children with his first wife, Louise Hawkins, and three children with his second wife, Jean Leckie. Doyle died of a heart attack in 1930.

When Doyle wrote The Lost World, he had been trying unsuccessfully for years to retire Sherlock Holmes. Holmes' popularity and financial success made such retirement difficult, but Professor Challenger provided Doyle with a larger-than-life figure who could measure up to the great detective. This is not to say that Doyle was not fond of Holmes. In fact, in many ways Doyle was Holmes: in more than one case Doyle wrote compelling Holmes-like defenses of men he thought were wrongly convicted of crimes. Yet if Holmes was an alter ego of Doyle, so too was Professor Challenger. When The Lost World first appeared in The Strand Magazine in 1912, it contained a fake photograph of the novel's four central characters: Professor Challenger, his rival Professor Summerlee, the reporter Ed Malone, and the wealthy adventurer Lord John Roxton. It is no coincidence that the Professor Challenger of the photograph-with his barrel chest, heavy beard, and bushy eyebrows-is none other than a heavily disguised Arthur Conan Doyle. Challenger had the scientific brilliance of Holmes, but Doyle was also drawn to the brashness and physicality that his professor uses to shake the twentieth-century world out of its complacency. In Challenger, Doyle found a much more fitting hero for an adventure story than the cerebral Holmes.

Nevertheless, engaging characters still need an effective plot, and the existence of dinosaurs in twentieth-century South America may seem a rather dubious concept on which to center a novel. Doyle, however, has the rare ability to lower his readers' defenses and make them willingly enter his lost world. Doyle populates his novel with skeptics who, like the reader, need to be convinced of Professor Challenger's outlandish assertions about prehistoric life. Part of Doyle's success in doing this stems from the closeness of the subject matter to his heart. When he wrote The Lost World, Doyle had long been nourishing his interests in geology, archeology, and paleontology, and at the time his home in Windlesham boasted plaster casts of iguanodon footprints he had discovered a few years earlier. Also, as a graduate of medical school and a man with an inquisitive scientific mind, Doyle had first-hand experience with the academic backdrop of his novel. In fact, Challenger is based partly on William Rutherford, a professor under whom Doyle had studied at the University of Edinburgh.

Doyle's skill at narrative framing, dialogue, and plotting makes his story as enjoyable to read today as it was in the early twentieth century, but twenty-first-century readers may find Doyle's representation of both race and gender dated if not offensive. The Lost World is clearly a novel about men and masculinity. Only two women appear in the novel: the aloof Gladys of the novel's first and last chapters, and Professor Challenger's wife, Jessie. The latter, described as an "enraged chicken," serves little purpose other than to chastise ineffectually her brutish husband. When Professor Challenger "stooped, picked her up, and placed her upon a high pedestal of black marble," he dramatizes the status of women in Doyle's novel: they are simply inconveniences who get in the way of male adventure. Gladys's role is a bit more complicated, for she motivates Malone to seek out adventure, and the reporter hopes to win her hand through his heroics. By the novel's end, however, Malone seems quite content to begin another male adventure and leave Gladys behind in her limited domestic world as the wife of a solicitor's clerk. The renaming of Lake Gladys as Central Lake effectually erases her from the world of men and their exploits.

Whereas The Lost World is a novel about men and male adventure, it is more specifically a novel that values white British men. Doyle was not one to undermine British imperialism or British attitudes of cultural superiority. The novel represents Zambo as a "huge negro" who is "faithful as a dog" and the so-called "half-breeds" as treacherous and murderous. The Indians are subservient, and the British adventurers unquestioningly accept the servitude of the natives, clearly illustrated when Lord John Roxton proclaims, "these Indians will carry stores," or when Professor Summerlee comments upon the undignified action of "heading a raid of savages upon a colony of anthropoid apes." Scholars have often interpreted the red Indians as representations of the Irish, but whether Celtic or native South Americans, Doyle clearly identifies them as an inferior race.

The Lost World's British-centered view of the earth can be traced through some of Doyle's earlier writings. A decade before the publication of The Lost World, Doyle played a key role in asserting Britain's moral high ground in the Boer War. Many European nations were critical of British activities in South Africa. The accusations of cruelty, looting, and the inhumane treatment of women and children were largely true, but Doyle could not believe them. Feeling the need to act and defend his country, Doyle tried unsuccessfully to enlist in the military, and finally managed to serve as a physician in a field hospital. In 1901 he drew upon his observations in South Africa and wrote a defense of the British in "The War in South Africa; Its Cause and Conduct." The booklet managed to quell much of the international criticism of the British role in the Boer War, and led to Doyle's knighthood in 1902.

Despite his knighthood, his fervent patriotism, and his belief in British cultural and moral superiority, Doyle's desire to see justice served often transcended racial identity. His 1909 pamphlet "The Crime of the Congo" illustrates the complexity of Doyle's racial politics. In this work, he discusses the horrific treatment of African natives at the hands of their Belgian rulers. Through an intertwining of history, polemic, photographs, and interviews, Doyle exposes the cruel, brutal, and murderous behavior lurking behind Belgium's ivory and rubber industries. Doyle is so incensed by the humanitarian horrors in the Congo that he proposes Britain, either with or without help from European allies, remove the African territory from Belgian rule. Doyle never goes so far as to suggest that the Congo should be an independent nation, nor does he ever question British imperialism in India. He does, however, argue that a nation's imperialistic and capitalistic ventures must be carried forward with great humanity and responsibility.

These writings on the Congo and South Africa might suggest that Doyle is entirely blind to Britain's own shortcomings, but The Lost World does reveal the tenuousness of his country's status. The Darwinian underpinnings of the novel hint that "civilized" men are not far removed from the beasts and savages they hunt and dominate. The narrator Malone notes that "there are strange red depths in the soul" when he finds himself killing the ape-men and "cheering and yelling with pure ferocity and joy of slaughter." Furthermore, the king of the ape-men and Professor Challenger are nearly identical in appearance "save that his colouring was red instead of black." The two figures have the "same short, broad figure, the same heavy shoulders, the same forward hang of the arms, the same bristling beard merging itself in the hairy chest." Indeed, The Lost World's slippage between man and beast challenges Britain's cultural superiority in ways reminiscent of the horse-like Houyhnhnms in Jonathan's Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726) and the surgically modified animals in H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896).

Little in The Lost World does not have a precursor in Victorian literature. In 1895, H. Rider Haggard presented an African version of a lost world in King Solomon's Mines. The novel narrates a similar type of imperialist adventure complete with battles and diamond mines that are suspiciously similar to those in Doyle's work. One can also find in The Lost World elements of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth (translated into English in 1872) and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883). Everett Bleiler points out that Frank Reade's 1896 The Island in the Air shares numerous motifs with The Lost World, notably the setting of an inaccessible South American plateau. Most scholars agree that this plateau is based on Mount Roraima, a high mesa on the boundary of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guayana. Sir Everard im Thurn was the first to ascend Roraima's cliffs in 1884, and Rosamond Dalziel notes many striking similarities between Doyle's novel and im Thurn's writings.

That these influential works were written decades before The Lost World is not a coincidence. As Doyle's editor correctly notes early in the novel, "the big blank spaces in the map are all being filled in, and there's no room for romance anywhere." Indeed, Doyle's work does seem to be behind the times, for by 1912 European imperialism had extended its fingers into nearly all corners of the earth, and few of Doyle's contemporaries would believe in the continuing existence of prehistoric life on their ever-shrinking planet. Yet perhaps this is precisely why The Lost World was so successful: Doyle's heroes are able to overcome the skepticism of the spiritually dead British and shock them into the realization that wonders do still exist in the world.

It is perhaps for this reason that The Lost World maintains its appeal and continues to influence writers and cinematographers today. The progeny of The Lost World are difficult to count, but the novel was adapted for the screen on numerous occasions. The first of these was a 1925 silent film with stop-motion animation. With production costs hovering around $1 million, it was, at the time of its release, the most expensive film ever made. In 1960, Twentieth Century Fox made a new version of The Lost World, but scholars and critics seem to agree that this is one of the worst renderings of Doyle's work ever produced. In 1992, two more film versions of Doyle's novel were made in Great Britain. These low-budget movies, The Lost World and Return to the Lost World, can now be found only on obscure videocassettes. In 1998, another poor adaptation entitled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World appeared, soon followed by a movie-length pilot and TV series based on the novel. None of these movies does justice to Doyle's original work, although the 1925 film is certainly worth the attention of anyone interested in film history.

The influence of The Lost World, however, is by no means limited to direct Lost World adaptations. Many novels, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land that Time Forgot (1924), borrow heavily from Doyle. Similarly, television shows such as Land of the Lost certainly owe a debt to Doyle, as do some of the most successful monster movies of the twentieth century: Godzilla, King Kong, and Jurassic Park, to name just a few. Undoubtedly, the legacy of The Lost World will continue well into the twenty-first century. Doyle's image of a pterodactyl flying through his contemporary London remains an apt metaphor, for the more we push the boundaries of our knowledge, the more we recognize that there are great marvels and horrors still to be discovered.

Allen Grove is an Associate Professor of English at Alfred University. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his research and teaching focus primarily on eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early twentieth-century British fiction.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 68 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 61 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    The first true dinosaur novel!

    There's little I can say about this novel that hasn't already been said. Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, but if people know him for anything else it is for this, The Lost World, the first true dinosaur adventure novel. The characters are fantastic and memorable. Professor Challenger the braggart, swaggering know-it-all who does ultimately know what he's talking about, suave hunter-adventurer Lord Roxton, who just needs a whip and he'll be a precursor to Indiana Jones, and finally greenhorn reporter Edward Malone, from whose point of view the tale is told. The book takes a while getting to the titular plateau but getting there is half the fun, and when they do finally arrive there's dinosaur attacks, ape-men, all that good stuff. If you like adventure stories and/or dinosaur stories then this is certainly a book to pick up.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    This id This is ...

    Awesome !!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    Did the tv series follow the books or did tv take his idea and d

    Did the tv series follow the books or did tv take his idea and do there own thing with it? I watched the tv series up until the last season and episode and the finale was left on a cliff hanger before they cancelled the show....was hoping the books could put my heart and mind to ease on how it ends up. Can any one tell me?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

    Spectacular

    I was surprised how intriguing this book was,reading from beginning to end with barely a pause.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    Hope (Chapter One, Part One.)

    "Where's Bushkit?" Meadowwhisper, the medicene cat, asked. "In a bush somewhere," replied Ashfoot as he boredly moved his mouse from paw to paw, "Why?" "Because I need him for something." "If he isn't in a bush he would be in the nursery," Ashfoot suggested as he bent his head to eat his mouth, "but you know how much he hates it in there." Meadowwhisper sighed as she padded to the medicene den. Bushkit was there at the enterance napping. Meadowwhisper giggled inwardly. Always the last place you'd look. She quietly nuged him awke then bent her head down to his ear. "Want to help me with something?" she asked a twinkle in her eyes. Bushkit yawned as he stretched before curling back up in the newleaf sunshine. "Maybe next time," he yawned. There was the whisker twitch and in a flash he was in a nearby bush. Despite the lazy noon atmospere, kits were playing in sun, rough as ever, Whiteash, the youngest warrior, barely an apprintice, was sharing tounges with Shadowpaw, who was Whiteash's littermate. Snakeskin was instructing Sunkit how to sneak up on a mouse and Mistclouds was helping to repair the nursery walls. The four apprintices were likely planning a prank in fact, one time, Bushkit was allowed to be in the set up. But something was wrong. Bushkit woke up and looked around. Ten warrior sized shadows where hiding in shde of a tree and proteched by the tree which is the leader's den and the High Branch. When the sun decided to go down the apprintices went to thier mentors and they went to hunt, a noon patrol went out and Longstar chatted to Meadowwhisper. Dragonkit bounded out of the nursery and chatted with Talonkit before pouncing on him. Swiftpaw who had whitecough watched sukiky from the medicene den. But Bushkit held his breath. That is when he heard Melodypond, an elder, shout out: "Attack!" The clan reacted quickly, kits and queens went inside of nursery. Elders joined them. Warriors stood gaurd over the medicene den and nursery. Byshkit quickly went into another bush. Ten glossy coated cats moved into view. After a couple of seconds fighting broke out.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    Get it

    I will get this for sure it sounds ausome

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2012

    Excellent

    Great book. However, there is too much spacing between paragraphs. Other than that, it's a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    ...

    Hows the book?

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2011

    Does not work in night mode-screen displays blank white pages. Spacing between paragraphs is excessive. Otherwise good book.

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  • Posted July 13, 2011

    Poorly formatted, not recommended

    The sample I read has exposed hyperlinks, poor sectioning, too much space between paragraphs. The illustrations were nice but small. Needs an introduction to give some context.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2011

    trouble

    bought it but got nothing but blank pages

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 17, 2010

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    Posted December 28, 2010

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    Posted November 27, 2010

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    Posted January 1, 2010

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    Posted June 25, 2010

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    Posted August 28, 2010

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    Posted January 23, 2011

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    Posted December 31, 2009

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