The Lost World (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]


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

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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.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Arthur Conan Doyle

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


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

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book deserves to be remembered as one of the archetypal pul

    This book deserves to be remembered as one of the archetypal pulp action adventures.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2006

    This is the best book ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is THE best book I have ever read. From the first page to the end I could not put it down. You should buy this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    An oldie but goodie

    A recommended read by a friend, I started the book out of obligation. Wow, am I ever glad I got the nudge. This is the foundation for many of our modern day dinasaur stories/movies. It was quite slow to start, but when it hooked you, watch out. You see it, feel it, live it. Story telling at its best.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    Not Modern but Applicable

    This book is the coolest old book I've ever read! It draws you in and you can't stop. Challenger is a great character! At times the conversation between Challenger and Malone struck me as very 'Holmes and Watson' like! You can tell who the author is when you read 'elementary fact'! It also happened to expand my vocabulary!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2002

    Great Book

    I must say for a book that is older and less modern its great. the first few pages are a drag but the story picks up soon after. The adventure of the story is originally intended to impress the main charecters wife but soon after the exposition is started this means little to him. By the end of the story you almost forget what the true journy was intended for. If you want to learn more pick up a copy and READ!!!!!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2013

    This is a good science fiction book that asks you to put aside '

    This is a good science fiction book that asks you to put aside 'common sense' in order to take up the adventure of wild proportions. The unlikeliness of the idea itself only makes the adventure more exciting and relatable. Fully recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Adventure & Challanges at their best!

    I have always enjoyed Doyle¿s writing style and was pleased to find The Lost World is every bit as good as some of the authors other works. The development and personal insights into the main characters grew with each chapter leading to a brilliant ending. The descriptions of the plateau has the perfect combination of scientific mumbo-jumbo and everyday layman visuals which brought to life the flora and fauna the group was traveling through. The animals were fantastic and yet real in their appearance and the logical ways the animals should behave. However, the Indians and the Ape Men steal the show. It was sad to think the travelers would corrupt the natural progress of civilization and evolution so easily. Yet history could have happened in the way described in this book. The smallest thing can change the course of history and the largest can have no affect in the long term. I truly enjoyed this book and wish it would never stop. Then again, the short simplicity of it, is part of its appeal. Not many authors can pack so much into such a small quantity of pages and turn out a gem like this. A quick weekend read for anyone who likes adventure with multiple engaging challenges to be overcome.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2002

    First and still one of the best

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created a classic dinosaur adventure story when he wrote The Lost World in 1912. The tale's narrator, Ned Malone is a newspaper reporter who joins an expedition to the wilds of the Amazon to impress his girlfriend. However, he scarcely anticipates the dangers he will confront when the expedition's leader, zoology professor George Challenger takes them to a plateau filled with dinosaurs and ape men. Doyle's human characters are described much more richly than Michael Crichton's minimally interesting protagonists in Jurassic Park (1990), so the story hinges as much on Challenger's eccentricities as it does on dinosaur attacks or Ned Malone's quest for validation of his masculine bravado. A weakness is the lack of female characters worthy of more than passing note. Ned's fickle and heartless girlfriend makes only brief and displeasing appearances at the beginning and end of the tale. Crichton does no better with females. Thomas Hopp's Dinosaur Wars, published in 2000, does a much better take on genders, giving equal weight to a young male/female pair who brave the dangers of dinosaurs loose in modern-day Montana. It seems that even dinosaur fiction has evolved over the years.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2001

    The Lost World: the tale of not just dinosaurs

    For those readers who have read multiple literary works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it can be said that this is one of, if not, the best book he has written. The book, simply put, is full of action and challenges many ideas relevant at the time of its publishment. Mr. Malone of the Gazette, has been sent on a life mission to put himself in danger for his love, Gladys. He, by fortune or chance, entangles himself with the dangerous but brillant Professor Challenger. Later, the expedition travels to a plateau in South America, here the group of four men and the Natives reach an isolated area that has maintained the life of lost species. Much to my surprise, the book wasn't just dinosaurs eat a bunch of men; it was the strugle between species. Watson of 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' becomes Mr. Malone of 'The Lost World'. This book's diction isn't terribly difficult but might not be as enjoyable for the younger readers. However, anyone can read this book and get some entertainment out of it for this book has Science fiction and fantasy all in one. The descriptiveness of the book is perfect, not to many and just enough to create a climatic effect. The book undoubtly is exciting and would make a great passtime novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2015

    An old standby that is still a good story.

    Older writing style and many editing mistakes but none of it detracts from a excellent story of a classic adventure.
    If you have never read this original story and only seen some of the poor movies, do yourself a favor and read this!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014



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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    Me wuz first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    In your face me wuz here FIRST wow i cant beleave your still here

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014


    I can't get this to downlod!

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  • Posted July 3, 2011


    Dude i havent read the book but youer the only one on it!

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2000

    It's no place for a summer vacation!

    Doyle has succeeded in writing an exciting page-turner of a book. It is skillfully written with effective use of a broad range of vocabulary and creative style. It bears little resemblance to the Jurassic Park sequel of the same name (fortunately), and readers expecting a menagerie of invading dinosaurs may be disappointed. The characters are well-developed, and the tension created by their diversity adds to the drama. If one is able to overlook the predominant evolutionary theme, The Lost World will enthrall even the most reluctant reader. But, don't look for answers to questions of the universe here. Read it as simplistic entertainment that has the touch of class for which British writers are famous.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

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    Posted November 10, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2010

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