The Poison Belt, by Arthur Conan Doyle

the-poison-belt-by-arthur-conan-doyle coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: House of Stratus
Published: 1913
Reviewer Rating: five stars
Book Review by Paul Goat Allen

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Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known for his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, his personal favorite literary creation was Professor George Challenger, a scientist and explorer who, in the pursuit of knowledge, was thrust into some incredible science fiction adventures.

The Lost World chronicles Challenger’s expedition to the wilds of the Amazon where he finds prehistoric life, and in The Disintegration Machine, the charismatic scientist investigates a man who claims to have created a super-weapon that could potentially destroy the entire planet.

Challenger’s greatest adventure, however, has to be in The Poison Belt where the eccentric scientist and his three best friends — young journalist Edward Malone, cynical paleontologist Summerlee and notorious explorer Lord Roxton — try to survive the sudden extinction of all life on Earth.

Challenger is convinced that the Earth is entering a poisonous ether belt and even after his doomsday warning is printed in an English newspaper, no one heeds his words. But when tens of thousands of people around the world begin dropping dead in the streets, it’s too late to do anything but wait for the inevitable. Together in Challenger’s country house, the four men seal themselves in a room with cylinders of pure oxygen hoping somehow to figure out a way to save themselves — as well as mankind!

Conan Doyle may be best remembered for his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but his works of science fiction are as brilliant and historically significant as they are under-rated. Along with contemporaries H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, he helped create the mold for modern science fiction.

Paul Goat Allen is the editor of Barnes & Noble’s Explorations science fiction/fantasy book review and is the author of Burning Sticks, Old Winding Way and Warlock Dreams.

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