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Discussion in 'General mystery discussion' started by mr_michel, Nov 29, 2004.
I've read the first 3 and agree that they are quite good. (if you like that sort)
Another in that series is "Justice Hall".
For those interested, there are a number of other series out that focus on some of the other characters from the Holmes books.
Carole Nelson Douglas has a series out that features Irene Adler & her chum Nell (her version of Watson). The latest 2 in the series include Holmes & Jack The Ripper.
Quin Fawcett has a series that surrounds Sherlock's brother, Mycroft.
M.J.Trow has written books soley on the adventures of Inspector Lestrade.
And there are even a few books out by John T. Lescroart about the Son of Holmes.
Of course, there are numerous books out with just Dr Watson & I've even seen a few out that center on Mrs Hudson. If there's a $ to be made, someone will write a book on it.
Have you read any of the Quinn Fawcett books?
I have to tell you that I found the two that I read somewhat disappointing. I've always been rather intrigued by Mycroft, and was hoping that he would have more of a role in the books.
I am also curious about the Carole Nelson Douglas books. I sort of got the feeling that they were a little "Romance-y".
As you say, there are loads of folks out there who have revived Conan Doyle's characters. Larry Millett has written four or five Holmes/Watson adventures set in the American Midwest, for instance.
Though I have them all I've only read the first of the Mycroft books. Like you, I found it to be lacking. Mainly...the central character.
I've read most of the Douglas series and you have a valid point. But I think that was to be expected. I think it's a pretty fair series though.
I've also read all of the Millet books you mentioned. Though they of course aren't comparable to the original Holmes books, I get a kick out of them. I especially like the bar-owner character (whose name escapes me off hand). I would read a book with that character alone, and hope he continues the series.
Yeah, the Millett books were fairly interesting. Plus, it was interesting to see how the supporting cast developed.
Is It To Be Holmes Or Poirot?
To tell you the truth having read all of Agatha's Christie's work, I am very familiar with Poirot and much of Holmes, sometimes using my annotated editions for edification.
I don't think I can choose between the two.
They are certainly shaped in the manner of brilliant men, outside of social society, very eccentric, picky, each has a buddy or a foil, and both have love/hate relationships w/the authorities. I think Poirot feeds off his ego in a different way than Holmes does ... Holmes is depressed, he's a junky, and he is very inward looking ... Poirot is more outgoing and enjoys life, he has his habits especially about his ablutions but he is not a brooder, as is Holmes.
Each character is limned on his own canvas and I love them both. And from a historical literary analysis we know that many, many years passed,after Poe's invention of the detective story, before Doyle picked up his pen and created Sherlock Holmes. From my research and reading the mystery/detective story/ novel cannot be seen in a vacuum ... the evolution is so interesting and all of the most famous characters come out of one author influencing another.
I would not put Rex Stout in this mix. He has some of the characteristics of his fore-brothers but he's a 20th century character, is very rich, dealsl with different kinds of cases and Archie has more of a role in the plots.
But, I would love to have dinner with any or all of these heroes.
Thanks Gerbam for reviving an old thread!
As I said all those years ago, I love Poirot. There will always be a spot in my heart for the Belgian detective. I've since read every Sherlock Holmes under the sun and have a greater appreciation for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. I don't think I could choose between them anymore.
I only wish I could find a contemporary author who could capture my interest in the same way as Christie or Doyle.
Seeking New Christie And Doyle
Yes I hear you!
Although not the same of course ... have you tried HENNING MANKELL, AKE EDWARDSON, CHARLES PALLISER or KAREN FOSSUM?
Their work is excellent albeit not Christie or Doyle but IMHO they are on a higher intellectual level, yet offer good suspense and mystery.
No, I haven't read any of those authors. Thank you, I'll have to look them up!
I'm a big fan of Christie, I have all her books in english (I'm italian) and I just ADORE Poirot and Miss Marple, because it's always the same old story, the ones you don't look at a second time, are the ones who can really surprise you!
I haven't had the chance to read poirot, but I have read the hound of the Baskervilles. I have to say, it will be quite difficult to top that. I loved the way the story unfolded and how the crime was explained, don't you?
not contemporary, but just found about this author, called john franklin bardin, have read two books of a trilogy (from the 50`s) and i like it very much, please you should give it a try
His books look very interesting. Thanks, I'll look him up!
I too like Poirot more. More humorous and has more flaws in physical appearance and manners.
I prefer Poirot. I just love that oval shapped head little man with a funny moustache and an accent!
Seriously, I also think he is more humane and he has a greater understanding of the human nature and behaviour. A great example of that was IMO, his reaction at the end of Murder on the Orient Express and of The Hollow. He is more interested in learning the truth than he is about bringing the guilty to justice. Does he do it to prove he is better than anyone else? No doubt. But I think in the matter of egos it's a tie between him, Holmes and Nero Wolfe.
My preference may have to do with the fact that I've read several of Poirot books and only one of Holmes. But the truth is Poirot hooked me on the first book I read and reading A Study in Scarlet hasn't made me read another one of Holmes' books yet. As for Nero Wolfe I only read one of the books but plan on reading more.
I think that Poirot and Holmes were created w/different personalities in mind. Remember Doyle didn't write until about 50yrs after Poe ... so his frame of reference was of a detective who used ratiocination which is Sherlock's metier.
Christie wrote Poirot in the 1930s and following and by that time she had to create a character who was not only different from Holmes in temperment and personality he had to solve his crimes through a different kind of deduction.
Each of these characters are superbly limned and as this and many other discussions show, they get compared (which is unfair) but also are sought after even in 2009.
The differences are obvious in that Poirot mainly appears in novels ... he's always mistaken for a French man though he comes form Belgium ... and his quirks are often hysterical. He is a man of his time and socialable. He is honest to a fault and very neurotic. I feel on solid ground in my assessment of Poirot since I have read all of Christie's novels ... not her SS but all 80+novels and find/found them awesome. She was quite a genius.
On the other hand Holmes's neuroses are triggered by his 70% solution and other 'goodies' he indulges in. He is more cerebral and sophisticated than Poirot and not as sociable. POirot is asexual and Holmes appreciates women although he remains single. Also Holmes has a bit of the eccectric actor about him which Poirot would be hard put to play out. Holmes has family, MIcroft appears from time to time ... whereas Poirot has none that we know of. HOlmes has Watson friend, confidante, and keeper of the truth of the detective's work. Poirot lives on his reputation.
Both have good relationships w/police.
JUst a word about Nero Wolf. As a mystery buff who has read almost all of his books I have to say that he is not in any way in any league w/Holmes or Poirot ... although I do like ARchie.
an aside: 1999 22.1
I had this article in my files and it's quite enlightening and well written.
Dinosaur Doctors and Jurassic Geniuses: The Changing Image of the Scientist in the Lost World Adventure
John G. Cawelti argues in his landmark study of popular fiction, Adventure, Mystery, and Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture (1976), that one of the major characteristics of popular literary formulas is their ability to "affirm existing interests and attitudes by presenting an imaginary world that is aligned with these interests and attitudes" (35). Since popular fiction is written for a wide readership, a mass-mediated audience if you will, then it logically must follow that the author of popular fiction must design his or her work to meet the social expectations of that wide readership. This means that the popular story can offer a metaphoric "gaze" into the past and present, a gaze that permits the student of culture to examine the way a particular society perceives itself. Popular fiction can allow us to investigate a society’s larger worldview, as well as a detailed self-view of its belief system, so that the examiner can make educated assumptions and perhaps draw some conclusions about the way a particular readership may think and behave today (or yesterday).
Directing our inquiring gaze to a particular literary landscape—the popular fiction category of the "lost world" adventure—we can examine how this type of formula narrative was written to engage the social values of a past audience, as well as those of a contemporary audience. Specifically, by looking at a classic lost world adventure that was first published in 1912, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and a contemporary example of the lost world adventure that was published in 1990, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, we can see if the depiction of science and the related portrayal of the scientist have changed significantly during the seventy-eight years between the appearance of these two novel. Roslynn D. Haynes, in fact, states in her monograph, From Faust to Strangelove: Representations of the Scientist in Western Literature (1994), that the scientists of literature and imagination have better defined our popular image of the group than have actual scientists. "Popular belief and behavior," writes Haynes, "are influenced more by images than by demonstrable facts" (1).
A comparison between The Lost World and Jurassic Park also encourages us to compare the two writers, and when reviewing the respective biographies and literary careers of these two popular authors—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Michael Crichton—a number of interesting similarities soon become evident. Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 22, 1859. He was educated at Hodder School in Lancashire from 1868 to 1870, as well as at Stonyhurst in Lancashire from 1870 to 1875, and at the Jesuit School at Feldkirch, Austria, from 1875 to 1876. Conan Doyle attended medical school at the University of Edinburgh, receiving his Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1881. He traveled as a ship’s doctor on an Arctic whaler in 1880, and again on a cargo ship bound for West Africa in 1881, a voyage that nearly cost him his life when he caught a deadly fever en route. After serving in a field hospital in South Africa during the Boer War, he returned to Southsea to practice medicine. From 1891 until his death on July 7, 1930, Conan Doyle was a full-time professional writer. He is best remembered today for his immensely popular Sherlock Holmes stories, but Conan Doyle also published in a wide range of literary genres, from historical fiction to supernatural fiction, from sports fiction to science fiction. His interest in writing science fiction developed somewhat later in his life.
Conan Doyle’s famous scientific romance, The Lost World, featuring the intrepid Professor George Edward Challenger, was issued as a serialized novel in the Strand Magazine, from April through November of 1912, and also as a hardcover book the same year (it was first published in England on October 15). The Lost World appeared some six years after the publication of his notable historical novel, Sir Nigel (1906), and eleven years after the publication of the famous Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901). Biographer Pierre Nordon suggests that the source of inspiration for Professor Challenger was an educator Conan Doyle admired when he was attending Edinburgh University. Nordon writes: "The first [of two professors who impressed the young Conan Doyle] was Rutherford, the anatomist, whose impressive figure, bushy beard, thunderous voice and eccentric manner were revived thirty-five years later in the character of Professor Challenger" (25).
Conan Doyle wrote four other Professor Challenger science fiction adventures after The Lost World. The second Professor Challenger story, The Poison Belt, was released a year later in 1913, both as a serial in the Strand Magazine (from March through July) and also as a hardcover bk (on August 13). This short novel outlined Conan Doyle’s apocalyptic speculation about the scientific cause of the end of the world. Two Professor Challenger short stories—"When the World Screamed" and "The Disintegration Machine"—appeared respectively in 1928 (in the Strand Magazine for April and May), and 1929 (also in the Strand Magazine for January). "When the World Screamed" presented a type of ecological practical joke about the earth being a living creature, while "The Disintegration Machine" tendered a thinly-veiled satire of the ongoing military buildup in post-World War I Europe. Conan Doyle’s final Professor Challenger novel, The Land of Mist, was serialized from 1925 to 1926 in the Strand Magazine (July through March) and was published as a hardcover book on March 19, 1925. It was one of the author’s last major literary efforts before his death, offering a semi-autobiographical account of Conan Doyle’s own powerful fascination with spiritualism. The Lost World, however, remains Conan Doyle’s best Challenger adventure. It not only stands as one of his finest novels, but it also is one of the finest adventure stories ever published.
Best-selling author Michael Crichton may be considered the modern American equivalent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Crichton was born in Chicago on October 23, 1942, and received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1964. He later attended Harvard Medical School, graduating in 1969. He served as a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies from 1969 to 1970. In the early 1970s Crichton decided to become a full-time author (as well as a director of motion pictures). While at medical school (in order to help pay the cost of his education), Crichton wrote a number of novels under various pseudonyms. As "John Lange," Crichton published six novels—including Odds On in 1966, The Venom Business in 1969, and Grave Descend in 1970. As "Jeffery Hudson," Crichton published A Case of Need in 1968. And as "Michael Douglas" (a pseudonym shared with his brother, Douglas), Crichton published Dealing; or, The Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues in 1971.
However, it wasn’t until the appearance of The Andromeda Strain in 1969 (under his own name) that Crichton became a best-selling author. He followed this initial success by writing other highly popular novels, such as The Terminal Man in 1972, The Great Train Robbery in 1975, Congo in 1980, Sphere in 1987, Jurassic Park in 1990, Rising Sun in 1992, Disclosure in 1993, The Lost World in 1995, and Airframe in 1996. In addition to his career as a best-selling writer, Crichton also directed several Hollywood films, the most notable of which are Westworld (a 1973 science fiction film that he both directed and wrote), and Coma (a 1978 medical thriller based on Robin Cook’s novel). In a telephone interview conducted on October 28, 1983, Crichton discusses how his training as a medical doctor affected his work as a full-time writer
Crichton’s and Conan Doyle’s medical educations seem to have helped to prepare them for turning to writing full-time.
Therefore, addressing the obvious similarities between the literary careers of these two authors, the reader may note that both men were trained as physicians, and later decided to leave the medical profession in order to devote their entire attention to writing. As best-selling authors, both men wrote prolifically in a variety of literary genres. In addition, Conan Doyle and Crichton enjoyed great commercial success with their fiction. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures were popular in the serial publications of the period as well as in book form (and they remain popular to this day with many readers of detective fiction). Few other contemporary writers equal Crichton’s popularity on the national best-seller lists today. Both Conan Doyle and Crichton experimented in their writings with topics that involved science and technology, publishing critically and commercially popular science fiction that also functions as adventure fiction. In addition, both authors "borrowed" liberally from previous literary sources for their science fiction/adventure stories. Conan Doyle, for example, in his The Lost World lifted the narrative motif of the "lost world" adventure from British romance novelist, Sir H. Rider Haggard. Along with Rudyard Kipling, Haggard (1856-1925) was one of the most popular authors of the imaginative romance in late-Victorian England and America. Haggard’s two most famous novels—King Solomon’s Mines (1886) and She (1887)—established the lost world adventure as a popular category of formula fiction that subsequently had an impact on the work of a number of important early writers of science fiction and fantasy, including Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, and, of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
As the Current Biography Yearbook for 1993 attests, some readers and critics have recognized Haggard’s obvious influence in Crichton’s techno-thriller, Congo (142). The mythical lost diamond mines of King Solomon play an important role in each story, as do the narrative conventions of the lost world adventure. Crichton, in fact, patterned his work after other classics of imaginative fiction, as did Conan Doyle. The Terminal Man is Crichton’s pastiche of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Eaters of the Dead is his pastiche of the Old English epic poem, Beowulf. But perhaps most obviously, Crichton’s two novels—Jurassic Park and The Lost World—are Crichton’s imitation of (and tribute to) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.
And, Conan Doyle’s The Lost World was, without a doubt, one of the most famous adventure stories published during the early years of the twentieth century. Yet, Conan Doyle intended this popular story to be simple escapism. The dedication in the book reads:
I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man
Or the man who’s half a boy
This marvelously phrased passage indicates that Conan Doyle’s basic motivation in The Lost World was to write a boy’s adventure story that was faithful to the literary tradition previously established by Robert Louis Stevenson, and later by Sir H. Rider Haggard. The "boy’s adventure story" evolved as a category of fiction during the late nineteenth century when publishers, in constant search of new audiences for their fiction, discovered that young male readers offered a potential market for a type of escapist adventure fiction that emphasized exotic settings, slam-bang action, and two-fisted, square-jawed heroes. In Dreams of Exile—Robert Louis Stevenson: A Biography (1992), Ian Bell offers some insight regarding the appeal of Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883), which helped to define this type of fiction:
Inspired, as Louis admitted, by Defoe, Poe, Washington Irving, and Captain Marryat, this "story for boys," with "no need of psychology or fine writing," is a marvel both for its construction and its psychological insight. It is a fable out of time and society—one reason, perhaps, why it has endured. (149)
D.S. Higgins offers an additional insight in Rider Haggard: A Biography (1981) when he discusses the transition of the boy’s adventure story from Stevenson’s Treasure Island (and the realm of historical fiction) to Sir H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (and the realm of speculative fiction which houses the lost world adventure). Higgins identifies Haggard as stating: "King Solomon’s Mines was written as an experiment in boy’s books. It would be impossible for me to define where fact ends and fiction begins in the work, as the two are very much mixed up together" (71).
Conan Doyle appropriated in The Lost World what Haggard had accomplished in the writing of King Solomon’s Mines: this blending of fact and fiction in order to produce a wildly fantastic narrative called the "lost world" adventure that has the appearance of verisimilitude. The lost world adventure, as invented by Haggard and perfected by Conan Doyle, typically features a remote landscape, far removed from the civilized world, that contains primitive flora and fauna, and that also frequently serves as home for a "lost race" of people. John Clute’s and John Grant’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) defines this type of adventure fiction: "Lost, forgotten or deliberately hidden civilizations occupying undersea or underground realms of hidden valleys, or some other forbidden enclave on or beneath our Earth" (594).
What Conan Doyle perhaps did not consciously intend to create in his pastiche of Haggard, but that is nonetheless quite evident to the contemporary reader of The Lost World, is the compassionate and unbridled adoration of modern science and technology. If we take the general definition of science to be the acquisition of knowledge, then Conan Doyle’s The Lost World features a narrative in which the scientist discovers, and then triumphs, over an unknown and bizarre "lost" land. Denise Albanese sees an important relationship between science and colonial imperialism. She writes in New Science, New World (1996) that "the isomorphism between the colonial and the scientific—what . . . has been flagged through tropes of novelty as the ‘New World’ and the ‘New Science’—reveals the historical coincidence of two modes of power-knowledge, of conquest, at their emergence" (59).
One of Conan Doyle’s two scientists in The Lost World, Professor Challenger, the "famous zoologist" who serves as a central protagonist of the story, is held up to the reader as a heroic ideal (albeit, at times, an ideal framed by comic behavior). The other important scientist appearing in Conan Doyle’s novel is Summerlee, a "veteran professor of comparative anatomy" and a scientific traditionalist who acts as Challenger’s critic, thus serving as a foil to Challenger’s overblown ego. During the expedition to Maple White Land, their quarrelsome relationship functions as the story’s comic relief. What makes George Challenger (and Summerlee) heroic, according to Conan Doyle, is the character’s unswerving belief in scientific method, and his equally unswerving belief that science can triumph over anything nature may throw in his way, even if that nature is represented as a massive, carnivorous dinosaur of earth’s distant past. The newspaper reporter Edward "Ned" Malone, Conan Doyle’s narrator in The Lost World, states in Chapter 8: "I learned . . . that both Summerlee and Challenger possessed that highest type of bravery, the bravery of the scientific mind. Theirs was the spirit which upheld Darwin among the gauchos of the Argentine or Wallace among the headhunters of Malaya" (63).
Flesh-eating dinosaurs are also featured in another popular adventure novel, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. In fact, a number of interesting similarities exist between these two novels, published some seventy-eight years apart. As with other immensely popular best-selling authors of today, such as Stephen King or Dean Koontz, Crichton is well aware of popular fiction’s traditions and history.
The settings in The Lost World and Jurassic Park are quite similar. Both novels feature a remote landscape with flora and fauna from a period that existed long before the advent of mankind, a "lost world" that frames and defines the narrative action. The major difference between the prehistoric settings in the stories is that, in Conan Doyle’s novel, the remote "Maple White Land" in South America exists because of a naturally occurring geological feature, a high plateau that prevents the modern world from intruding upon the lost world, while in Crichton’s novel, the prehistoric environment of Isla Nublar is artificially (and thus imperfectly) created by modern scientists.
Even the basic plots of these stories are similar. Humans meet dinosaurs; dinosaurs want to eat humans; humans try to escape becoming dinosaurs’ dinner. Crichton’s Jurassic Park is an obvious and intended pastiche of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Crichton, in fact, named his sequel to Jurassic Park after Conan Doyle’s novel. Crichton’s The Lost World, 1995, even features in its story a high-tech RV trailer named "Challenger." Crichton furthermore employs character types in Jurassic Park that are strongly reminiscent of similar characters in Conan Doyle’s novel. Crichton patterns the gamekeeper in Jurassic Park, Robert Muldoon, after Conan Doyle’s Lord John Roxton, the heroic great white hunter in The Lost World. Crichton describes Muldoon as being "a big man, fifty years old, with a steel-gray mustache and deep blue eyes. Raised in Kenya, he [Muldoon] had spent most of his life as a guide for African big-game hunters, as had his father before him" (145). Compare Crichton’s description of Muldoon with Conan Doyle’s in The Lost World when the reporter Ned Malone describes Lord John Roxton as "one of the great all-round sportsmen and athletes of his day" (44). After Roxton tests the mettle of the young reporter, he explains to Malone the reason why he wants to travel to South America with Professor Challenger:
. . . a sportin’ risk, young fellah, that’s the salt of existence. Then it’s worth livin’ again. We’re all gettin’ a deal too soft and dull and comfy. Give me the great wastelands and the wide spaces, with a gun in my fist and somethin’ to look for that’s worth findin’. I’ve tried war and steeplechasin’ and aeroplanes, but this huntin’ of beasts that look like a lobster-supper dream is a brand-new sensation. (49)
But even though Crichton’s Muldoon imitates Conan Doyle’s Roxton, Crichton also interjects significant differences into his character. Muldoon is essentially a mercenary, a hunter for hire who becomes a victim of John Hammond’s greedy capitalist ambitions. Roxton, on the other hand, is not a hunter for hire. His skills are not for sale. He is instead an equal companion embarking on a great adventure. He is his own man, a person who is not intimidated by others. And thus, whereas Muldoon exhibits heroic, but nevertheless limited, abilities, Roxton is truly heroic both in thought and action.
Crichton and Conan Doyle also employ scientists as major protagonists in their respective novels. Professor George Edward Challenger, who is a world-renowned zoologist (among other things), is similar to Crichton’s paleontologist, Alan Grant. In addition, the antagonistic relationship exhibited between Challenger and another scientist, Professor Summerlee, is also similar to the mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm’s combative relationship with John Hammond, the creator of "Jurassic Park."
Despite these (and other) important similarities, what makes Jurassic Park a substantially different story from Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is Crichton’s depiction of science and technology, a difference that is represented specifically in how Crichton portrays the scientist as educator, Ian Malcolm, as compared to Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger. Whereas Conan Doyle envisions science as being tremendously beneficial to humanity, as making the world a safer place to live via the improvement of knowledge, Crichton, conversely, views the development of new science (in the form of cutting-edge genetic engineering technology) as being a very dangerous thing indeed, as being something that, if not responsibly handled and controlled (as it was not responsibly handled by John Hammond in his quest for the ultimate animal theme park), will destroy humanity.
It is revealing that both Conan Doyle and Crichton selected scientists as major characters in their stories, professors who will function as the educating "voice" of their respective creators. Conan Doyle, in fact, is particularly enamored of Professor Challenger. Biographer John Dickson Carr writes in The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1975): "Conan Doyle came to enjoy G.E.C. more than any other character he ever created. He would imitate Challenger. He would . . . dress up in a beard and beetling eyebrows like Challenger. And the reason is not far to seek. Barring the colossal vanity, he made Challenger a completely uninhibited version of himself" (317). Conan Doyle identifies most with this character in The Lost World because Challenger embodies those qualities that Conan Doyle himself found admirable. Challenger is an amateur scientist (as Sherlock Holmes was an amateur consulting detective). According to the Victorian and Edwardian worldview (and Conan Doyle’s own particular worldview), the amateur was superior to the professional, because the amateur represented the upper class in society while the professional represented the lower, working class. The amateur’s motives were pure—work for the sake of intellectual or moral self-improvement—while the professional’s motives were much baser—work for employment or financial profit. Challenger also embodied for Conan Doyle a noble sense of purpose combined with a belligerent defense of personal integrity. If George Challenger is portrayed as being bull-headed in his thinking and behavior, Conan Doyle sees these as being superior qualities. Challenger’s unabashed love of science and his fanatic pursuit of new knowledge are what, in Conan Doyle’s eyes, make Challenger a great man.
In Jurassic Park Michael Crichton identifies with a completely different scientist protagonist, the iconoclast mathematician Ian Malcolm. Rob DeSalle and David Lindley suggest in their book, The Science of Jurassic Park and The Lost World; or, How to Build a Dinosaur (1997), that the character of Ian Malcolm possesses a specific purpose in Crichton’s novel. They write, "Dressed in black and constantly warning of disaster, the mathematician Ian Malcolm is perhaps meant to represent the conscience of Jurassic Park, the person who’s always asking whether John Hammond and his genetic engineers are doing the right thing" (165). Indeed, during the course of Crichton’s narrative, Malcolm serves as Crichton’s educating "voice," just as Professor Challenger did for Arthur Conan Doyle, discussing at various opportune moments in the story the numerous problems inherent in the advanced technology that is abused by John Hammond and his associate, the scientist Henry Wu, Hammond’s genetic engineer who reconstructed several breeds of extinct dinosaurs from preserved DNA samples. Malcolm is Crichton’s doomsayer, a character who frequently cites homilies from his "chaos theory," a non-linear mathematical system that predicts unpredictability. Specifically, Malcolm uses chaos theory to predict the destruction of Hammond’s technologically sophisticated dinosaur theme park. And as the events unfold during the story, Malcolm is soon proven correct. Wu’s science is limited; Hammond’s technology is flawed; scientists are indeed arrogant in their naïve assumption that they can unleash powerful forces of nature and then expect to somehow control these forces. The stark opposition between Conan Doyle’s depiction of the intrepidly imperialistic professor in The Lost World and Crichton’s depiction of the skeptical professor in Jurassic Par underscores the fundamental difference in the way Conan Doyle and Crichton view new scientific discoveries. Two specific text selections, regarding the role of science in society, reveal Conan Doyle’s and Crichton’s profoundly divergent views of the subject. Near the conclusion of The Lost World, after Professor Challenger and his expedition return from Maple White Land to London with proof (a living dinosaur) of their fantastic discovery of a lost world, the Duke of Durham, who introduces Challenger to an enthusiastic audience at the Zoological Institute’s meeting, A reporter in records the following: Apparently the age of romance was not dead, and there was common ground upon which the wildest imaginings of the novelist could meet the actual scientific investigations of the searcher for truth. He [the Duke of Durham] would only add, before he sat down, that he rejoiced—and all of them would rejoice—that these gentlemen had returned safe and sound from their difficult and dangerous task, for it cannot be denied that any disaster to such an expedition would have inflicted a well-nigh irreparable loss to the cause of zoological science. (167)
So what, is responsible for this radical disparity in the two attitudes about the value of science and the role of the scientist as educator? Crichton, perhaps, gives the reader a clue to the answe near the conclusion of Jurassic Park. Ian Malcolm seems to be dying from his wounds received when the so-called "fail safe" security system in "Jurassic Park" failed, but as he lingers near death, his fanatical tirade against science and the scientist continues. Malcolm draws an interesting comparison between Hammond’s apocalyptic folly to resurrect extinct dinosaurs and another equally apocalyptic folly: development of the atomic bomb. Remembering that Malcolm is Crichton’s "voice" in the story, it is interesting that this particular scientific discovery is singled out for comparison to the threat of the raptors successfully escaping from Isla Nublar.
As revealed in The Lost World and Jurassic Park, the two profoundly differing worldviews—Conan Doyle’s admiration of science and Crichton’s fear of science—are perhaps indicative of the larger society’s contrasting view of science and the people who develop new technology, a difference that finds a generally optimistic attitude held by many people in America and Europe about science before World War II (which is reflected in the lost world adventures, such as seen in Conan Doyle’s novel, that were published in the early years of the twentieth century) and a considerably more pessimistic attitude held by many people about science following the advent of the atomic bomb. Indeed, whatever criticisms may be leveled against popular fiction, the fact remains it negotiates, in narrative form, the social concerns and expectations of its audience. Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park illustrate two fine examples of this social negotiation process. Both novels effectively reflect their respective authors’—and audiences’—belief system about the discovery of new science and technology, and about the image of the scientist in literature.
GERBAM, I am aware it's difficult to compare these two characters, being so different and having different authors. However, the purpose of the thread is to state our opinion on them, including which one you prefer. That's all I did as others have done before me.
As for Nero Wolfe, I agree that Archie plays a very important role in the storys and maybe they should be considered as a team, rather than considering just Nero Wolfe. Despite that, and having only read one of the books, I got the impression, from watching the tv series, that Archie is Wolfe's eyes and ears (and legs, cause he isn't a big fan of moving around) outside of the house, since he rarely leaves it, but it's actually Wolfe who solves the crimes.
The article was very long but very interesting and I think it proves it's possible to compare different writers, from different time periods and also compare their characters. This comparison is a good way of understanding how the time period in which the author lived and wrote shaped their characters.
I am sorry you took my words to heart. I meant no harm. I was just pointing out what I think is interesting about this discussion. Perhaps I should not have shared the long article and if that was a mistake, I apologize.
I happen to agree w/you and the article that any writer/character can be and will be contrasted and discussed by people interested in such matters. I do it all the time and I guess you spend a fair amount of time doing it too. Isn't that how we learn and enhance any book we read?
Looking forward to discussing more with you.
GERBAM, I wasn't upset by what you wrote, I was merely answering since you responded directly to me.
I'm glad you shared the article because, although it was very long, it was also very interesting.
I look forward to do it too.
Hmm Holmes or Poirot? Do I HAVE to choose? I like them both.
Separate names with a comma.