Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Lost World by Arthur Doyle

Rating: WARTY!

Although it was read reasonably by Paul Hecht, this one ultimately disappointed. It was another audiobook experiment from my local library, but it's also available for free from LibriVox. This book was a DNF because it was taking so ponderously long to go anywhere that I lost patience with it! We were very nearly half way through the entire novel before these guys ever got to their 'lost world'. Everything prior to this was a slow set up.

The lost 'world' is really a high plateau in South America, and the idea is that this was so cut off from everything else that what killed off the dinosaurs elsewhere on Earth didn't affect those guys living up there. Of course, Doyle could not have known what we know now: that an asteroid destroyed them, and along with them very nearly the whole planet, so no dinosaurs, and none of what people popularly, but mistakenly lump in with them, such as the pterosaurs and the Sauropterygia, would have survived whether they were on plateaux or wherever.

There were things Doyle could have known, which I shall discuss shortly, but the problem here for me was that Doyle took an entire chapter with these guys parading round the plateau trying to find a way to get up there. The solution was obvious, but it took them a while to figure it out, and it was boring. This where I started skimming and skipping, and before very long decided to give up on it altogether.

The first problem is that the lost world as Doyle depicts it couldn't have stayed lost! There were pterosaurs living up there and while those animals which depended on legs to get them around would have been trapped up there, the flying animals would not have been so confined, and would have been discovered living in other areas long before the lost plateau was ever discovered, so this rang false.

The same thing applies to plant life. Why were none of the plants up there spreading to the areas around the plateau and becoming discovered? Doyle lived in an era where it was known how organisms get around. Darwin himself, a half century before, had made that clear, so Doyle cannot have been ignorant, yet still he wrote approached this story as though his little enclave atop the plateau would have remained entirely hidden. It wasn't credible.

Nor was it credible that this plateau could have risen so high so quickly that it preserved an antique set of species that never changed in over sixty million years! And held apemen! I'm sorry, but no. Anyone who thinks hominins and dinosaurs ever occupied the planet at the same time - anywhere - is an ignoramus, period. Doyle also knew of evolution, but failed to realize that it would have been going on up there on the plateau just as it was everywhere else.

Even if I were to overlook all of this for the sake of the story, the story itself was boring and entirely predictable. The encounters Doyle depicts, for example, between animal and human are all of the typically gory and violent kind that we find in every single story of this nature ever told, whether it be in book, in movie or on TV, about prehistoric animals - which are exclusively and savagely predatory. Predators do not behave like that in real life.

As I mentioned in a review yesterday, predators are not constantly hungry, constantly on the prowl, or constantly hunting. They do very little hunting (unless they're unlucky enough to be in a place where there's little prey or great competition). Neither do they obsessively track prey which they normally either do not encounter, or simply don't bother within real life. Yes, a really hungry predator will go after pretty much anything that might make a meal, but most of the time, predators - even warm-blooded ones - are doing quite literally nothing but sitting around until they get hungry!

When they do get hungry, they get on with it. They give up in short order if they can't catch their prey, and they try again later. When the hunt is done, they go back to their sedentary life until they're hungry again. That's it! When they're in that mode, their usual prey can saunter past them all the time and the predator really doesn't care. So for Doyle to depict the dinosaurs as constantly chasing down food, especially when they've clearly just eaten, as evidence by fresh blood on the beast's maw, is not only wrong, it's stupid and boring. I can't recommend this book at all.