Monday, March 23, 2015

The Lost World and Other Thrilling Tales - Arthur Conan Doyle

My first encounter with The Lost World came in the form of the 2001 BBC miniseries, starring Bob Hoskins and Matthew Rhys. I loved it instantly. It's full of adventure and silliness and awesome dinosaurs, courtesy of the Walking With Dinosaurs team. And it also features Tom Ward sporting very Hugh Grant hair and a truly hilarious moustache.
I mean, really. Source.
So obviously, I decided that I should read the book soon after, and I remember enjoying it. I haven't revisited the book since, though I've seen the miniseries numerous times. So I was somewhat surprised to see this time around how different the book is to the series. The gist of things is the same - a mysterious plateau somewhere in South America where prehistoric life has survived unchecked, and an expedition to confirm its existence. Through a series of unfortunate events, the expedition find themselves trapped on top of the plateau, unable to get down again, and must fight for survival in a world filled with allosaurs, hostile natives, and some kind of missing link between apes and humans.

The story is a LOT of fun, I must say. The biggest change in the miniseries is the addition of Agnes and her religious uncle. I'd totally forgotten that she wasn't in the book, and I was slightly disappointed by her absence because she's pretty great. There were also some relatively minor changes to the ending that weren't as big of a deal for me. Still, there was plenty to entertain, and it's an action packed story.

Sure, there are moments when you're like "Wow, that's kind of racist...", but it's set in 1912, and when it comes to the classics, you just have to shudder over the racism and misogyny and press on regardless. Doyle created some fabulous characters, and while parts of the story - allosaurs hopping like kangaroos and killing their prey by falling over on them - may be more funny than anything, it's an enjoyable and action packed story, topped off nicely with illustrations and photographs.

My volume also contained three other, much shorter stories. The first of these, The Poison Belt, features the same characters as The Lost World. It's fun to see them on another adventure, and The Poison Belt is definitely a fast-paced read. The gist of it is that the earth is passing through a band of ether that's killing every living thing on the planet. Professor Challenger and the others obtain a bunch of oxygen cylinders and lock themselves in a sealed room to see if they can survive it. It's got a very H.G. Wells feel about it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was less taken with The Terror of Blue John Gap, which is a 20 page story in which an invalid goes to the country to take the air and decides to investigate why a bunch of sheep have gone missing, only to find a mysterious cave system inhabited by a giant beastie. It was so short that it felt more like an outline than a fully fleshed out story, and the narrator, James Hardcastle, is kind of a pain.

The final story was very much early fantasy, and though it dragged a bit at times, I thoroughly enjoyed The Horror of the Heights. Written in a time when aviation was just starting to find its feet and was essentially taking over from nineteenth century explorers, it makes perfect sense to set an adventure story up in the sky where who-knows-what could happen. I kind of wish this had been a fully fleshed out novel rather than a short story, but a short story is better than nothing!

If you've read and enjoyed any of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, I'd definitely recommend picking up The Lost World, because it really is a lot of fun. (If you'd prefer the slightly more modern interpretation, I really would recommend the miniseries. It's got some great actors in it, and the changes to the story made it even better)

Have you read it? WOULD you read it based on this??

K xx


  1. It's interesting, I nevere thought of Doyle as anything but the writer of Sherlock Holmes, didn't even think he wrote other novels. Silly!Me.

  2. I've read this story! I LOVED it! I didn't expect it to be funny. :)


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