Friday, December 26, 2014

Professor Challenger: The Island of Terror by William Meikle

This novella serves as an homage and as a sequel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World. In addition to literature's most famous detective, Doyle created an irascible beast of a manly adventurer known as Professor Challenger.

Here's how he's described in The Lost World:

"His appearance made me gasp. I was prepared for something strange, but not for so overpowering a personality as this. It was his size, which took one's breath away – his size and his imposing presence. His head was enormous, the largest I have ever seen upon a human being. I am sure that his top hat, had I ventured to don it, would have slipped over me entirely and rested on my shoulders. He had the face and beard, which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-grey under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger."

While Meikle did an excellent job of telling this story with the same flavor and style of Doyle's writing, I don't feel that he did enough with Challenger's character. Sure, the Professor is featured prominently in the narrative but not prominently enough for a man who, from what I understand, is like a force of nature. I wanted more rude, bombastic behavior, more displays of brute strength, more bravado, more cunning intellect.

Perhaps Meikle will write another piece featuring Challenger. If he does, I'll read it. This was action-packed and fun to read. Some of the scenes inside the lighthouse in the end are especially fine.

Recommended to fans of Doyle and/or Challenger.

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