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In this classic tale by the creator of Sherlock Holmes, a scientific expedition headed by Professor Challenger, sets out to explore a plateau in South America that remains frozen in time from the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Seemingly impossible to penetrate, this lost world holds great danger for the expedition team, from fiendish ape-men to terrifying prehistoric creatures. A fascinating tale of adventure and discovery, The Lost World was Conan Doyle’s first full-length science-fiction work and undoubtedly the most important.

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The Lost World

Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN-10: 0199538794
ISBN-13: 978-0199538799

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4 Responses to “The Lost World”

  1. Malcolm Says:

    OK – so I will be the first. I was really hoping that someone would tell me why I should read this book – rather than real adventures associated with Darwin such as those by Wallace, Bates, Humboltd etc. Its a “Boy’s Own” adventure and thats it. Can’t see how it can be described as important. The author leans heavily on the original describers of dinosaurs such as Richard Owen. HE showed real imagination to take some old fossil bones and build unknown and undescribed species. A real leap of the imagination that really is amazing. Even the idea that the “extinct” species might still be alive somewhere in the unknown world was not original – and, of course, has been proved to be sometimes true. Coelacanth etc. The missing link concept (man – ape) was borrowed and very poorly developed in this book. I did though like the way the apes were all exterminated or driven into slavery. Hurrah! – Well thats all right then. You might have thought that even the Challenger character might have shed a passing scientific tear. I did also like the early passages with Lord John Roxton. No wonder Britain was Great! Where are these Empire Builders now! Damn those natives.
    PS – Should I read Tarzan or not?

  2. Clare Says:

    I have started reading The Lost World and think that what this novel does show is how much by the time it was written, Darwinian ideas had percolated down through all levels of society and had been comfortably absorbed along with other discoveries of the Victorian age.. As Malcolm has said this is a book of “Popular fiction”, an easy read: it’s interesting to see just how much Conan Doyle expected that his “everyday” audience would be familiar with debates about the Origin of life and terms like ‘Brachycephalic”.

    The other interesting thing is that unlike Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Urbevilles” (both of which portray anxiety and doubt about the loss of religious certainties, and the future of mankind, some elements of which are “doomed to destruction”), the Lost World is optimistic and even mocking! By 1912 when the Lost World was published it had been decades since the Origin of the Species was published – and yet the civilised world hadn’t caved in! The author makes it clear that human beings (like Malone the Irish journalist) will still bounce along, even if some professor does classify them as “Brachycephalic, grey-eyed, black-haired, with suggestion of the negroid..” People can involve themselves with Darwinian-ism as much or as little as they like.

    Malone’s girl-friend Gladys also has traits of the New Woman which Doyle gently mocks and the novel evokes the “Lost World” of the late-Victorian and Edwardian age when to be a gentleman was to be scholarly. Science could be ‘populist’ – it was not sequestered away from the arts and humanities as it is today. I loved the description of the gas-lit lecture hall, and wonder which eminent anthropologists/geologists of the day Conan Doyle was describing in his portraits of the mumbling Professor Murray and the ‘disciplinarian’ Mr Waldron? I think the Lost world is actually a good counter-part to other 19th century fiction which portrays a kind of post-Darwininan angst. do any other readers agree with me?

  3. Clare Says:

    After finishing The Lost World I was fortunate to be able to discuss this novel with a friend who is a paleontologist. I did so because I wondered why the “Ape Men” or Neanderthals are portrayed with such total negativity in this novel? They are seen as totally destructive and murderous and there is no possibility of their establishing any kind of dialogue with modern humans. Malcolm has mentioned how the author clearly feels these examples of the Missing Link are not worth ” a passing scientific tear” and certainly they are presented as nightmarishly cruel and with no real moral or spiritual perceptions. My friend pointed out that The Lost World gives a Victorian – not a modern-day view – of Neanderthals: the nightmarish “Dark side” of mankind which Darwin had set the Victorians thinking about.They were horrified to feel their ancestors might have been like these beings! In the novel, Malone spies on them when he is hiding in the forest and gives the classic Victorian description – stooping posture, some with knuckles dragging on the ground. However modern science has proved that Neanderthals were not like this! This whole concept was drawn up by a French paleontologist called Boule who examined the skeleton of a creature who was probably crippled by arthritis and was not at all typical. The Lost World was published in 1912 and my friend also pointed out that 1912 was the year of the great Piltdown Hoax , trying to establish evidence with fake skulls of a false Missing link between Man and apes.The fact that this hoax took place at all and gained such publicity before it was punctured showed just how concerned and obsessed Edwardian society was with their past links which Darwin made them trace back to some gross apes. Modern science has shown that the ‘link’ is not nearly such a simple matter – more many different links and many stages. I think that the Lost World was a worthwhile novel to read in that it made one aware of the feelings of that time. Oddly enough (or sadly) right at the end of the novel, Malone talks of becoming a War correspondent and this makes you realise how strange it ws that soon Modern humans would be descending from the pinnacle of Edwardian civilisation to the pit of one of the most uncivilised conflicts ever known.

    Rachel Reply:

    I think that Lord John’s line “Missin’ Links, and I wished they had stayed missin’…” unintentionally sums this idea up. It’s a line that really struck me when I read the novel (which I really enjoyed by the way). The “Missin’ Links” can be seen as a representation of our bestial, uncivilised side. That side of Homo Sapiens that we least like to admit exists!