Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Book 71 of 2012: The Lost World & Other Stories

John's a huge Sherlock Holmes fan so I'd suggested this book as a gift for him a while back, figuring that he'd enjoy reading about another of Conan Doyle's characters. Whenever John finishes one of his books, I grab it to read myself so we can share our thoughts. This copy, The Lost World & Other Stories, comprises of The Lost World, The Poison Belt, The Land of Mist, The Disintegration Machine and When The World Screamed. Of the five, The Lost World and The Disintegration Machine are my favourites.

The Lost World is the first of the stories featuruing Professor Challenger and is told through the eyes of Malone (a journalist who manages to overcome Challenger's hatred of journalists and strikes up a friendship with the man). Challenger reports that he has identified a place in South America which is home to dinosaurs and leads and expedition to the place to bring back proof of its existence. It's very much a product of its time, anyone who isn't a white European is clearly a lesser species, but racism aside it's an exciting little read. It kind of made me want to watch Jurassic Park. :lol:

The Poison Belt sees the four main characters of The Lost World reunite (Malone, Challenger, Lord Roxton and Professor Summerlee). Something strange is happening across the world. As the globe travels through space it appears to pass through a 'poison belt'. Challenger makes preparations and the four friends gather, along with Challenger's wife, to watch the end of the world.

The Land of Mist takes up most of this book, it goes on and on and on and is the main reason I gave this book three out of five. Without The Land of Mist I would've ranked it much higher. In contrast to the other Challenger stories, it's told in the third person, it also features Enid Challenger (Challenger's never-before-mentioned daughter). It's a story about Spiritualism as Malone and Enid work to convince Challenger to believe in Spiritualism. From a religious point of view it was quite interesting and I quite enjoyed the relationship between Malone and Enid, but I don't think it really needed to be quite so long.

The Disintegration Machine reminded me of some of the shorter Sherlock Holmes stories. It's a very short story, just a few pages, jumping back to before The Land of Mist takes place (though chronologically it was the last of the Challenger stories to be written). Malone and Challenger go to investigate a scientist's claim that he has created a machine which causes any object or person subjected to its ray to disappear. It's a little bit sinister, but it was short and very clever.

When The World Screamed was the second to last Challenger story to be written, I got the sense that this was trying to get into the Challenger groove after The Land of Mist. It's told from the point of view of Peerless Jones who works for some sort of drilling company. Professor Challenger has decided that the world is actually some sort of giant living animal and so drills towards the centre of the earth to prove this. I think I might have enjoyed this a little more if it was told from Malone's point of view, rather than through the eyes of someone we'd never met before.

On the whole I really liked the characters of Malone and Challenger, I think that I could actually have grown to like them more than Holmes and Watson if there were a few more stories featuring them. While I was reading it I kept on picturing Challenger as John Rhy-Davis, so it was quite funny when I was looking the books up on Wikipedia and found that he did actually play him in two film adaptations - I think I might have to look those out.

I enjoyed the writing style too, very clearly Arthur Conan Doyle and more to my taste than the Brigadier Gerard stories. It was quite funny in places and I found myself writing out loads of favourite quotes. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who's enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stories, though I think I would've enjoyed it more if The Land of Mist hadn't been quite so long/preachy.

"The door was opened by an odd, swarthy, dried-up person of uncertain age, with a dark pilot jacket and brown leather gloves. I found afterwards that he was the chauffeur, who filled the gaps left by a succession of fugitive butlers."
Page 23

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