What in the ever-loving shit is this?
First off, I didn’t expect much, here. It’s about explorers discovering a world hidden in the vast stretches of the Amazonian rain forest, replete with dinosaurs and ape-men. This isn’t Virginia Woolf. But I’ve been subsisting on a diet of H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft, so I’ve been spoiled by less dense material that is still highly enjoyable and intellectually satiating.
And then I fall into this sinking morass of blithering idiocy and overwrought pomposity.
This book starts with the intrepid reporter Edward Malone proposing to the shallow and fairly loathsome Gladys Hungerton. She dismisses him for being too boring and unadventurous, which precipitates his volunteering for whatever dangerous job his editor can find for him. As it happens, there’s an egomaniacal genius of a scientist, Professor Challenger, making wild claims about discovering a lost world of extinct animals. Adventure follows.
The adventure includes them being constantly betrayed by devious and unreliable South American savages (as their kind are wont to do), being accompanied by a bestial and intellectually enfeebled Negro named Zambo, committing genocide against a troglodytic race of humanoids (because white people are awesome, I guess), and upending a backward and obstructionist scientific community that simply isn’t smart enough to trust Professor Challenger when he declares things to be true.
Also, apropos of nothing, Arthur Conan Doyle thought this was a real photograph:
In 1917, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took this (and other) photograph depicting supposed fairies Cottingley, England. Arthur Conan Doyle, a renown spiritualist and writer, believed whole-heartedly that the photographs were real.
None of this makes The Lost World a terrible book – I think the unlikable characters and heroic depictions of things which are detestable are sufficient cause for that – but they make Doyle’s regard for the scientific process fairly laughable.
I’ve only read one Sherlock Holmes story (“A Scandal in Bohemia”), and didn’t particularly enjoy it. The only thing that kept The Lost World from the ignominy of a one star review was its fairly influential place in the lost world genre of fiction. And, as someone who loves monsters (both real and imagined), I can’t in good conscience ignore this.
But, holy hell, stay away from this festering boil of Victorian myopia.