Book reviews

Book review – The Disintegration Machine by Arthur Conan Doyle (Professor Challenger #5). [Pub. 1929]

Regular readers of The Long Victorian blog will have observed that I am an enthusiastic reader of thumping good yarns. Not only does this sort of writing bring happiness to many, they are much harder to write than many suppose. Try it yourself. Easy reading, is hard writing. Authors capable in this art form include: Daphne du Maurier, Roald Dahl, Anne Rice, Wilkie Collins, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens, JK Rowling, Robert Louis Stevenson – and many others. I’m sure you have your own list. And Arthur Conan Doyle was a master at it. Most people know of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales (56 short stories and 4 novels), but there are also five Professor Challenger stories. This is the third of five Challenger reviews that I’ll be doing. Continue review  [April 11, 2017]


Book review – The Poison Belt: Being An Account of Another Amazing Adventure of Professor Challenger by Arthur Conan Doyle. [Pub. 1913]

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930). So it seems fitting to post a review of one of his stories: The Poison Belt. One of my favourite genres is the “cosy catastrophe”. A chance to sit in a comfortable armchair with a dozing cat and a mug of hot tea and contemplate the world as it’s destroyed by nuclear war, floods, monstrous sea creatures, alien children, agricultural failure and homicidal vegetables. What’s not to like? The Poison Belt fits nicely into this category. The Earth is passing through a belt of poison gas and no living thing higher than an amoeba will survive – delightful! Continue review  [May 22, 2016]


Book review – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. [Pub. 1899]

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is an absorbing and seductive read. It was published in the late Victorian era*, but it’s flavour is closer to modern age writing with anti-heroes and lashings of ambiguity, disillusionment, uneasiness and cynicism.

At one level it is a fairly straight-forward, though harrowing, account of a trip up the Congo river and a meeting with a dying man told by a narrator to friends whilst on board a ship moored on the River Thames (London) at the heart of the British empire. Continue review  [May 5, 2016]


Book review – The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle. [Pub. 1912]

Long before I had heard of Sherlock Holmes I was an enthusiastic reader of Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger stories. I grew up near Crystal Palace (London), which boasts a Victorian park full of wonderful 19th century dinosaur sculptures. So it should be no surprise that The Lost World was a favourite read.

The Lost World would once have been described as a “Boy’s Own Story” or a “a rollicking good yarn”. Today we might say it was a delightful adventure story, keeping the thrills coming and the improbable plot clipping along at a pleasingly manic pace. The story is that of a scientific expedition sent to examine the reported claims by the iconic Professor Challenger that prehistoric life still exists on an inaccessible plateau in Brazil. This expedition discovers a lost world where dinosaurs, ape-men and humans co-exist. Continue review  [April 26, 2016]