Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Poison Belt – Book Review

Author –  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A review of The Poison Belt

I liked it, only because love is such a strong word.  As far as sequels go this doesn’t fall off the map but rather holds its own.  Of course leaping from the map would be an option in avoiding The Poison Belt.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even in death, can never escape from that masterful detective we all know of but the crew he’s assembled in these ‘Challenger’ books are a worthy second banana in my book.  It brings me genuine comfort to read about the boisterous Professor Challenger, the cranky old Summerlee, that great hunter Lord John Roxton and our journalist Ed Malone.  Naturally I was excited to see what they were up to in this second go around.

            Knowing there were more ‘Challenger’ books following this one it was shocking to read that the entire human race and animal kingdom had died.  I really wondered where this story was going.  Was the next adventure to be a zombie apocalypse?  Can you imagine Doyle writing that?  I drool at the arguments between Challenger and Summerlee, “Clearly my close minded friend a human in such a state will revert to its primal instincts and seek the savory flesh of we who are not them!  Once again my hairy friend you don’t see that such a reanimation is impossible in every way.  What is to…All of us being engrossed in the debate left us unaware of one of the dead creeping up behind Summerlee and ripping flesh from his neck in the vilest of ways.  At any rate I suppose that had to be the proverbial hook for me.  What happens now if everyone is dead?

As it turns out everyone had been suffering from a condition that basically slows your heartbeat to unreadable levels and shuts down the body.  With each farfetched happening that came to be its Doyle’s ability to carefully write out of it and bring the story back from the dead – so to speak.  I found myself thinking that the story was about to head downhill like a boulder but he’d smash that hunk of granite every time.

            Decent portions of the book are of the dead people and what they were doing at the time of supposed death.  The crew drives to London as you see the aftermath of the fastest moving extinction I’ve ever read or watched in a movie.  How’d it happen?  The ether level on earth was the cause of the mass wipe out and was unique enough for me.  True it seems absurd and easily criticized, I’ll grant that but this is a work of fiction right?  You can bend rules when it’s not real, although it came across as real to me.  It’s more or less does it read well?  Yes, it does.

            Moving along, a point could be made as to how these four men could get together just in the nick of time for another memorable experience.  If the book had been thicker than a magazine it would’ve had room to include detail as to how the others assembled and what they have been up to the past three years.  I for one thought the fellowship gathered together nicely.  It was BANG there they are – let’s get on with the story.  If you’d read the previous book its pace isn’t as bothersome, however if you start here then you would be questioning much more as opposed to enjoying the book.  How do you use these characters with limited words?  Not with a long drawn out collection of old friends taking up half the book.

            Where was the adventure though?  That’s what put The Lost World over the top; instead it’s a camp out in Challenger’s house with oxygen tanks.  Which honestly I thought they’d be going on an underwater adventure – I could not have been more wrong.  Yes, I admitted that.  Lord John Roxton thrives outdoors, being delegated to drive the auto was demeaning.  Who wouldn’t like to see Lord John sling a shotgun from his back and blow apart some zombies?  Anyone?  Despite these few deficiencies, I read without a sigh or forced break.  When I sigh that’s a sign the story is going south.  It was interesting and if I was asked to read this book again I would.  I doubt it would be anytime soon but thus far The Lost World and The Poison Belt don’t disappoint.  I do look forward to the next book.

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