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The Lost World

By: Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World is a science fiction novel by British writer Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1912, concerning an expedition to a plateau in the Amazon basin of South America where prehistoric animals still survive. It was originally published serially in the Strand Magazine and illustrated by New-Zealand-born artist Harry Rountree during the months of April–November 1912. The character of Professor Challenger was introduced in this book. The novel also describes a war between indigenous people and a vicious tribe of ape-like creatures.

Edward Malone, a young reporter for the Daily Gazette, asks his editor for a dangerous assignment to impress the woman he loves, Gladys, who wishes for a great man capable of brave deeds and actions. His task is to approach the notorious Professor Challenger, who dislikes the popular press intensely and physically assaults intrusive journalists. The subject is to be his recent South American expedition which, surrounded by controversy, guarantees a hostile reaction. As a direct approach would be instantly rebuffed, Malone instead masquerades as an earnest student. On meeting the professor he is startled by his intimidating physique, but believes his ruse is succeeding. Seeing through the masquerade, then confirming Malone's scientific knowledge is non-existent, Challenger erupts in anger and forcibly throws him out. Malone earns his respect by refusing to press charges with a policeman who saw his violent ejection into the street. Challenger ushers him back inside and, extracting promises of confidentiality, eventually reveals he has discovered living dinosaurs in South America, following up an expedition by a now-deceased previous American explorer named Maple White. At a tumultuous public meeting in which Challenger experiences further ridicule (most notably from a professional rival, Professor Summerlee), Malone volunteers for an expedition to verify the discoveries. His companions are to be Professor Summerlee, and Lord John Roxton, an adventurer who helped end slavery on the Amazon; the notches on his rifle showing how many slavers he killed doing so.

 

Running the gauntlet of hostile tribes, the expedition finally reaches the lost world with the aid of Indian guides, who are superstitiously scared of the area. Summerlee retains his scepticism – although being delighted at making other scientific discoveries in the field of botany and entomology: even a glimpse of a pterodactyl at a distance fails to convince him, believing it is some species of stork (the sharper-eyed Roxton is inclined to agree it is not a stork but has no clue what it really is), until a night-time encounter when it flies down and is seen by all at close range, as it steals the companions' dinner. After this, Summerlee apologises to Challenger. The cliffs to the plateau itself prove to be apparently unscalable, but an adjacent pinnacle turns out to be climbable, and moreover, has a tall tree which can be cut down and used as a bridge, which allows the four explorers to cross to the plateau. However, they are almost immediately trapped on it, thanks to the treachery of one of their luggage-porters, Gomez: who, as it turns out, is a former slaver whose brother had previously been killed by Roxton during his anti-slavery activities. Gomez takes his revenge by dropping the tree off the cliff, stranding the explorers on the plateau. Gomez himself is subsequently killed by another porter, a negro ex-slave named Zambo, who remains loyal to the party: but the latter is unable to do much more to help, other than send some of the company's supplies over by rope.

 

Whilst investigating the wonders of the lost world, discovering many plants and creatures thought to be extinct, they narrowly escape an attack from pterodactyls. Although barely escaping with their lives, Roxton takes great interest in nearby blue clay deposits. At night a ferocious dinosaur is about to break through the thorn bushes surrounding their camp; Roxton averts disaster by bravely dashing at it, thrusting a blazing torch at its face to scare it away. Later, all except Malone are captured by a race of ape-men. Whilst in captivity they discover that a tribe of natives, with whom the ape-men are at war, inhabit the other side of the plateau. Roxton escapes and together with Malone mounts a rescue, preventing many unpleasant deaths, including a young native who is a prince of his tribe. The rescued natives take the party to their village, then with the help of their firepower return to defeat the ape-men. After witnessing the power of their guns, the tribe wish to keep them on the plateau but, helped by the young prince they saved, they eventually discover a tunnel leading back to the outside world. During their time with the tribe, Roxton plans how to capture a pterodactyl chick, and succeeds in doing so.

 

Upon return to England, despite full reports from Malone many detractors continue to dismiss the expedition's account, much as they had Challenger's original story – although Summerlee, having been on the expedition, has now switched sides and is supporting Challenger. Anticipating this, at a public meeting Challenger produces the young pterodactyl as proof, transfixing the audience and leaving them in no doubt of the truth. The explorers are instantly feted as heroes, and on a wave of adulation find themselves carried shoulder-high from the hall by cheering crowds. The pterodactyl, in the confusion, makes its escape and is witnessed several times at different locations around London, causing consternation wherever it goes, but is last seen heading off to the southwest in the probable direction of its home.

 

At a private celebratory dinner, Roxton reveals to the others that the blue clay contained diamonds – he had been tipped off to the possibility, by the recollection of a similar feature in South Africa – and that he managed to extract about £200,000 worth, which is to be split between them, Challenger plans to open a private museum with his share, Summerlee plans to retire and categorise fossils. Malone returns to his love, Gladys, hoping she will recognise his achievements. Instead, he finds she has now selfishly changed her mind and married a very ordinary man instead, an insignificant clerk. Astonished at this turn of events, and with nothing to keep him in London, he decides to accompany Roxton back to the lost world.

 

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

English

Published In

1912

Author

Arthur Conan Doyle

United Kingdom

He was a British writer and physician. He created the character Sherlock Holmes in 1887 for A Study in Scarlet, the first of four novels and fifty-six short stories about Holmes and Dr. Watson. The Sh...

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