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Review of The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Poison Belt: Being an Account of Another Amazing Adventure of Professor Challenger The Poison Belt: Being an Account of Another Amazing Adventure of Professor Challenger by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in etheric poison. Wait. Nobody says that, probably because the ether referred to by Doyle doesn’t exist. That’s okay — I can forgive bad science. What I won’t forgive is the mediocre writing.

The Poison Belt is a short book, but I’m convinced Arthur Conan Doyle could have made much better use of the space. I know there was room in there for real characterization. Instead, the most interesting chap was Professor Challenger, and he’s named Professor Challenger. Actually, that moniker is the one likeable thing about the arrogant fellow. It’s a book about an event though, not a touchy-feely exploration of some human lives. I guess I just prefer when it’s the other way around, when the plot is a vehicle for character.

I’m also sure Doyle also could have squeezed in some scenes where his characters did a bit more than sit and wait for the world to end. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like spectating, and the events described are pretty interesting. It’s just that when the ether hit the fan, Challenger and friends lounged around a drawing room. Don’t expect some made dash to save the house staff, let alone the human race.

All that said, I did enjoy the prose and there’s quite a bit of humor. If you’re a fan of Doyle or of Challenger, the book is so short that you may as well read it and enjoy what you will.
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