Why I Read It: A check mark on my classics list.
Summary: A condescending and truculent man of science tells tales of dinosaurs living in South America and leads an expedition to find them to quell the doubts of the London scientific community.
My Thoughts: That Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can write.
He starts with a premise that fantastic creatures exist in a faraway place that cannot be fully divulged (thereby setting up an alien world on Earth) lest other adventurers race ahead and find out the area's secrets. A team is assembled: a doubting man of science (Professor Summerlee), a retired military man with a history in South America that will come back to haunt him (Lord John Roxton), and the hero of the day, Edward Malone, the dashing journalist who also happens to be a famous Irish rugby player (described as the last standing of the manly sports, an interesting editorial observation of the time). The pugnacious Professor Challenger surprises them all by arriving on scene to lead the expedition.
They assemble the standard gathering of Star Trek red shirts, the expendable support staff that one-by-one dwindles away via one incident or another. The four major characters make it through the Amazon jungles and up onto the plateau to find the world once depicted in the suspicious drawings of an American albino. They find what they came for, and much, much more.
The story has the feel of H. Ryder Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan stories and other adventure tales of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when exploration into the depths of the jungles of the southern hemisphere was all the rage. Seemingly everything is included from the playbook of the genre, tribal wars, stinging plants, horrific depictions of grisly deaths, unexpected discoveries and run-ins with creatures yet unknown to man, or, rather, long ago forgotten. In one instance, the team is presented with a cliffhanger of mammoth proportions, as their escape route from the plateau is destroyed, which is funny, as Doyle is known as the inventor of the term.
Partway through the story, Malone, the journalist, changes from a first person narrative in journal form and begins a series of dispatches to his London newspaper. We read along like his readers would have, hanging, ourselves, on every turn of the troupe's fortunes.
In the end we are left with the belief that there is more to come. Malone took on the journey to prove his worth to the love of his life, but she is not waiting for him to return. He goes all in on the next adventure.
Jurassic Park be damned. This is where it all began, and where the tale will always remain in my heart. Long live Professor Challenger!