The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In this novel, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger, the hero of The Lost World (1912), becomes a Spiritualist, just as Doyle himself had. Professor Challenger is annoyed when his daughter, Enid, and her sweetheart, Edward Malone, become convinced that the tenets of Spiritualism are true. They believe that there is life after death and that the spirits of the dead can communicate with the living. At one Spiritualist meeting, a medium informs Enid that she herself possesses mediumistic abilities. At a séance, another medium, Tom Linden, materializes the spirit of Edward’s mother.

Tom is a kindly soul who seeks to use his powers solely to help others. His ministrations, however, gain him only grief. His brutish brother, Silas, tries to bully him into revealing tricks that will allow Silas to set himself up as a fraudulent medium. Two policewomen entrap Tom into committing a violation of an archaic law against fortune-telling, and he is sentenced to two months of hard labor.

Meanwhile, Edward continues to explore the spirit world. He helps to placate a ghost haunting a house in Dorsetshire, a horrifying specter that appears as a dark, batlike shadow and violently attacks the investigators. He also helps thwart a more material menace, Silas Linden, who, without his brother’s aid, is gaining notoriety as a false medium who fakes spirit materializations. Edward and his friends confront Silas and force him to sign a document...

(The entire section is 445 words.)