I thoroughly enjoyed each of these stories as they are all as well written and dramatic as the best known of the collection, The Lost World. Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing here has stood the test of time; modern readers will find his prose engaging and accessible, not dated or impenetrably dense.
These stories are generically interesting too – fantasy, romance, adventure, thriller mixed in with a kind of early science-fiction. What also struck me was that there is a strong thread of social criticism implicit in some of the stories, most notably in Land of Mist, which I’ll return to in just a moment. Doyle has a social conscience; although it may seem elitist, his decrying of his period’s general scientific ignorance and closed-mindedness is just as relevant today. Another example is in The Disintegration Machine, with its trenchant condemnation of the amoral development and sale of weapons of mass destruction.
Arthur Conan Doyle is sometimes mocked for what some take to be his naïve credulity in matters of the occult. The story in this collection, Land of Mist is criticised by another reviewer as merely an apology for the author’s spiritualist beliefs. Rather, it is a study of how society may ruthlessly crush those it deems heretical, and its focus on institutional authoritarianism, police duplicity, the corruption of the law and the exploitation of the helpless is quite moving. Some of the scenes recall Dickens’ depictions of poverty and squalor.
For the price you cannot go wrong with this collection. Reading these stories has inspired me to seek out other examples of the author’s lesser known works.