The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

Title: The Lost World
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
Genre: Young adult / romance

Rating: 1.5 / 5

Goodreads | Powell’s

It’s Dinovember and I was looking for a book to celebrate with. Although my library claimed to have an available copy of Jurassic Park, it was not to be found in its spot on the shelf. They did have this book, though, and after reading the first page I was really into it, the writing style was funny, smooth, and skillful.

Alas, the style was not enough to save it. People have called it dated, and it is… it was published the year after Luis Alvarez (the guy who proposed the comet-destroys-dinosaurs theory) was born, and so many theories besides have been advanced since then. But I think what people really mean when they say it’s dated is that is that it’s racist and sexist. I know, I know—it’s historical and ““everyone”” thought those things ““back then.”” It still bothers me as a reader. And it was hard for me to focus on other parts of the story when it was everywhere in the book.

Interestingly, one of the heroes of our story says, “There are times, young fellah, when every one of us must make a stand for human right and justice, or you never feel clean again.” So one can hope that Sir Arty could appreciate this critique if he were here to read it. The character is talking about how he killed slave drivers—which is cool, don’t get me wrong (then again, is it really cool if people are forcing other people into slavery and you have to kill them to get them to stop—but I digress). However, the narrative constantly refers to “half-breeds” and “savages”; there is a black character named Zambo (that’s one letter away from Sambo and actually a racial term of imperialism in its own right) who is described as being “as willing as any horse, and about as intelligent” and “as faithful as a dog”; they talk of naming a lake that they “discovered” when in fact humans already live on this plateau (couldn’t help but think this was topical as Thanksgiving is in a week); these people then see them as basically gods once they use their guns to commit genocide on the other homo species living in the plateau… I was pretty much cheering by the time a couple of their guides broke their bridge in order to leave them stranded—“serves you right!”—I thought, until it turns out that one of them was the brother of one of the slave-drivers the hero from earlier had killed. And these are just highlights. It’s like everyone but white Europeans are either in awe of them, exist to do their bidding, or are evil; everyone is talked down on except our white male heroes. The only named female character in the book is not portrayed as an admirable one, and in the opening chapter our narrator is saying things like “my instincts are all against a woman being too frank and at her ease with me. Where the real sex feeling begins, timidity and distrust are its companions…the bent head, the averted eye, the faltering voice, the wincing figure—these…are the true signals of passion.” Um, gross. No fucking wonder Gladys set you some vague, impossible task to prove yourself and then married a clerk as soon as you left.

Anyway so all that kind of ruined the adventure for me. I tried to compartmentalize but it was just constant. Other than that it was decent. It moved quickly, it was well written, it wasn’t as thrilling as it was perhaps a hundred years ago, but it definitely had its charms and could have been really fun. Sorry dinos D: I know you tried your best to hurt those racist sexist doofuses.


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