I read The Lost World as my Adventure Classic for the Back to the Classic Challenge 2016 at the book blog Books and Chocolate.
The reader’s enjoyment of The Lost World will definitely depend upon her (a) suspension of disbelief and (b) her ability to look past the racial stereotypes of the Victorian/Edwardian era. Arthur Conan Doyle is, of course, much better known for Sherlock Holmes than for the adventures of Professor Challenger, who is introduces in this book and who went on to be featured in two further novels and two short stories. The Lost World was a fun sort of romp in its way, but I doubt I will ever read any further adventures of Professor Challenger. Personally, my window to have read and really enjoyed this type of book was probably some time in my tween to early teen years, back when I did read a couple of Jules Verne and HG Wells books.
The book is very short (less than 250 pages) and the plot is fairly simple: Professor Challenger, a pompous yet intelligent bull of a man, alleges to have discovered a land that time forgot somewhere deep in the Amazon, but no one believes him because all of his evidence was accidentally destroyed upon his return. Intrepid newspaperman E.D. Malone, always on the lookout for a good story, is also seeking out a daring and dangerous assignment in the hopes of impressing the woman he loves. Malone, along with big game hunter Lord Roxton and biologist Professor Summerlee, band together to travel to the Amazon to try to either prove or disprove Challenger’s claim. Adventure ensues!
As I mentioned above, there are more than a few unfortunate racial stereotypes to be found in the book, along with attempted genocide, slavery, and a general belief in the superiority of “civilized” white Europeans over any other group. I can’t put my finger on why these attitudes bother me in some books but in others (like The Secret Garden), they do not. What I did enjoy about The Lost World was the sense of adventure and discovery expressed in the story. It is hard to imagine today that there is a square foot of the earth’s surface that hasn’t already been surveyed and catalogued but I think a person at the turn of the 20th century could very well conceive of an undiscovered island or plateau just waiting for scientific discovery and research. I also loved the illustrations (drawings and faked photos) in the book. I am a total sucker for that type of thing!
I don’t regret reading this at all, but as I wrote above, I think I read this book too late in life. I had a similar experience with two other Victorian classics: Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but for different reasons. I honestly enjoyed the forward written by Michael Crichton, in the Modern Library edition that I read shown above, more than I did the actual book.