The Lost World: Pastiche


Holmes of the Lost World

Professor Challenger was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's big attempt to get away from his most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes. It was entirely unsuccessful, and to this day, Conan Doyle's name is inexorably tied to that of the detective. However, during his life he resisted whatever urge there may have been to make Holmes and Challenger cross paths. It has been up to authours these days to take up the... challenge.

In Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds, Wade Wellman offers up a Holmes pastiche, a further Challenger Adventure and a sequel to H.G. Wells' classic martian invasion all rolled into one. The focus is on Holmes, but Challenger offers no small assistance to him.

More recently, under their "Cult" programme, the BBC7 commissioned a series of five new Holmes adventures. One of these, by Dominic Green, features a missing Megalodon late of Professor Challenger's Lost World. For the time being, you can still read it by visiting the BBC7 website.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The Lost World in four colours has not been reduced to strict adaptations of the original novel.

64 Page Giant America's Best Comics #1 features a centrefold board-game based on Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's incredible Steampunk comic The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The game is jam-packed with the references to obscure Victorian literary characters and situations that made the comic itself a hit, and square 44 has a familiar theme for LW fans. On it, which is seen below, the player faces "Curipuri", and the text reads: "Man-apes and giant reptiles. Nothing about this in the brochure. Furious with travel agent. Return to start." Talk about disasterous!!

Also, in case you were curious, the figure in the upper right corner of the picture is Dr. Moreau, in square 67. The bit in the lower left corner is the nose of Moby Dick in square 18.

Not only has The Lost World and the indomitable Professor Challenger sparked millions of imaginations into repeating his journey, rewriting it and constantly falling in love with it anew. Every now and then, talented people take it upon themselves to add to it with their own sequels and continuing Challenger Adventures. This section will chronicle assorted pastiches, original works with The Lost World setting or characters which were not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear, Warner Books (1998)
Inspired by the original Lost World, Nebual Award winning author Greg Bear went about creating a light science-fiction work returning to Maple White Land. It is the 1940s and nobody cares about dinosaurs anymore, so it is up to an intrepid crew which inclues Willis O'Briend and Ray Harryhausen to return the creatures of "Lothar Gluck's Dinosaur Circus" to their homeland. The path, though, is fraught with danger.

First, let me state that this is NOT a sequel to Conan Doyle's work. Instead, it is an alternate history asking what would have happened if a real Profesor Challenger had discovered a real Lost World, all reported by Conan Doyle, of course. The immediate difference a LW fan will notice is that the dinosaurs have been "updated" to fit current thinking. No kangaroo hopping megalosaurs. Another difference is that author Greg Bear's Lost World is much larger than Conan Doyle had described. However, Bear sticks with the notion of several groups of animals from different time periods mixed together. In fact, Bear does something interesting with this notion. He imagines that several animals have kept evolving since they were stranded in the Lost World. So there are several new types of dinos mingled with the old ones, as well as other creatures (one particularily nasty animal shows up towards the end). Despite these differences, I do not think fans of the original novel will be disappointed.

How about the book itself? Well, the humans are pretty shallow. Not much depth. But they are still pretty enjoyable, and I think that the reader is able to associate with the main ones by the end. The dinosaurs, on the other hand, are well thought-out and assume personalities of their own. They really make the book for me. The writing is very minimalist, luckily there are some excellent illustrations that accompany the book. Without them it would be impossible to visualize some of the animals, especially the imaginary ones. However, besides the occasional swear word or gory scene, the book often reads a little too much like children's literature. But since the focus is on the boyhood attraction to adventure, this is barely noticed.

The major flaw of the book is predictability. Some things you just know are going to happen, and you find yourself thinking "Com'on, get to it already." However, I think this is forgivable because when a certain obvious event happens, it is exciting.

What makes this book really work is Greg Bear's respect for the source material and the people who brought the genre to life. Unlike Crichton, Bear loves Conan Doyle's work, and it shows. He also portrays many of the filmmakers who brought dinosaurs to life, O'Brien, Copper, Harryhausen, in a very sentimental manner. This book is as much about them as it is about dinosaurs.
Review by Walter J. Williams.

Return to the Lost World by Nicholas Nye, Images Booksellers and Distributors (1991)
It may share a title with the 1992 film sequel, but even with it's paltry number of puppets, the film still outdoes this rather confused tract on parasychology and New Age phenomena. I don't imagine that it's worth either the difficulty or the expense of finding it.
Review by Cory Gross.

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, University of Minnesota Press (1987)
Another somewhat confused tract of French non-analytical philosophy that will either howl in frustration at its shoddy scholarship and argumentation or make you think that your mind has just been exploded open. Academic philosophers tend to revile it, tripped out laypeople sometimes seem to love it, but either way, the second "plateau" uses Professor Challenger to deliver a lecture.
Review by Cory Gross.

Professor Challenger in Space by Stephen William Theaker, Silver Age Books (2000)
Theaker reunites the Challenger Expedition for an adventure to the moon, turning the group over to some inventive Steampunk that is delightfully written in a tone familiar to the original novel. The official website has excerpts, but it's worth the few pound to order, if there are any copies left.
Review by Cory Gross. Official Web Site.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 2 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, America's Best Comics (2003)
Of all works fitting into the genre of "Steampunk" - or Victorian Science Fiction pastiche - one of the most loved the comic series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by celebrated writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill. The main feature of the two mini-serieses are a team of British special agents including Mina Murray (Dracula), Alan Quatermain, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll and his brutish alter-ego, gathered to protect the Crown first from Fu Manchu and then from the Martian invasion written about by H.G. Wells. What makes these comics a particular treat is Moore's exhaustive, encyclopedic knowledge of English literature, drawing in references that fill almost every panel (and necessitated their own annotations, written by Jess Nevins and published by Monkey Brain Press).

Each series includes a supplemental text feature. In volume two, the feature is "The New Traveller's Almanac", which unites nearly every fantasy land, castle, country and lost world in a globe-spanning gazetteer... Including the Lost World. Under chapter three, the League mentions Maple White Land and link it, in fashion typical to the series, to other literary and cinematic works:

The most astonishing of Brazil's mystery sites, which we have saved for last, is Maple White Land, a plateau in Amazonas State explored in 1912 by sometime League associate George Challenger. Here... there survive a multitude of species long since thought to be extinct, including the sabre-toothed tiger and many dinosaurs. A species of ape-man, again conceivably related to the "rat-dogs" or the Yahoos, once existed on the plateau before being ethnically purged by a local Indian tribe called the Accala, and some locations close to Maple White Land have shown signs of infestation by species that would seem to be prehsitoric in their origin. Some few miles down the Amazon from the volcanic plateau, for example, there is a secluded lake known as the Black Lagoon by local Indian tribes, where monsterous amphibian bipeds have apparently been sighted. These may be some hitherto unknown Silurian throwbacks that have come downstream from Maple White Land...
Moore also suggests that Challenger was a close associate of Dr. Doolittle.
Review by Cory Gross.

Tony DiTerlizzi's art for Dinosaur Summer.