The Lost World saw the first appearance of Professor George Edward Challenger, arguably Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's second best known protagonist, who would appear in a total of five books between 1912 and 1929. The appropriately named Challenger was generally rude, self-important, and often downright belligerent. Despite being rather short in stature, he was physically imposing, built something along the lines of a gorilla, with a massive black beard and a thoroughly intimidating manner. One of his favorite pastimes seemed to be verbally abusing journalists, and he'd go after them with his fists if one was foolish enough to get that close.
In The Lost World, after having his claims of finding prehistoric creatures on a remote plateau in South America dismissed as a fraud, Challenger leads a small expedition back to the plateau to have his discoveries confirmed by witnesses. Included in the party are Professor Summerlee, one of his more vocal scientific detractors; Sir John Roxton, an experienced adventurer and sportsman, and Edward Malone, a reporter for the Daily Gazette. Challenger's initial reaction to Malone had been to give him a black eye, but he warms to him after realizing that Malone actually believes his limited evidence.
After a long journey the party arrives at the plateau. The "easy" way to the top having been blocked by an earthquake, they have to climb a rock pinnacle adjoining the sheer cliff and cut down a huge tree to create a bridge. Once there, the bridge falls into the abyss and the little party is trapped on the top of the plateau. Challenger, it quickly develops, was right. There are dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts in plenty, several of them decidedly unfriendly. Just to keep things interesting, the plateau is also the home to a large tribe of semi-evolved "ape men," whose idea of fun seems to be throwing captives off the cliffs, and a tribe of Indians who are constantly at war with the ape men.
The modern reader will no doubt find Conan Doyle's description of the dinosaurs to be rather outdated, but given the state of knowledge in 1912 this is no doubt to be expected. And despite any discrepancies with modern scientific theory, as an adventure story this is still one of the best.
Annotated edition, includes a new Foreword.