Wednesday, 22 April 1998

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Poison Belt (1913)

Edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 1913
Review number: 28

This is the first sequel to The Lost World. It describes the adventures of the same group of men, centred around Professor Challenger, together with Challenger's wife, when the earth passes through a poisonous belt of ether which wipes out (as they think) all life but the five of them.

The science of the book is rather outdated; the idea of the existence of the ether (postulated originally as a medium for light waves to propagate in, of a different order of existence to the material world) was exploded early this century - before, I think, even the date when the book was written. Because of the centrality of death in the book, it also provided Conan Doyle with a mechanism for promoting his spiritualist ideas, though this is done on a sufficiently subtle level to be overlooked unless you know beforehand that that is what he believed.

As a book to stand on its own, The Poison Belt is not great; viewed as part of the Professor Challenger series it is much more interesting to read.

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