(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Considered in isolation, The Land of Mist is an unremarkable example of an author’s employment of a plot device common in fiction about the supernatural: A group of skeptics is converted to belief in the paranormal by a series of undeniably genuine psychic phenomena. Viewed in the context of Doyle’s work, the novel has greater import, for it represents Doyle’s most detailed representation of the belief system that he cherished and assiduously promoted during the last decade of his life. During World War I, Doyle became convinced of spirit communication when he was impressed by the revelations of a family friend who had become a medium. Most of the literary output of his last twelve years of life are nonfiction works dealing with the paranormal. These include The Case for Spirit Photography (1922) and The History of Spiritualism (1926). The Land of Mist was his only long fictional treatment of Spiritualist themes.

The novel is interesting within Doyle’s canon for the way in which it seems to reject the philosophies of the author’s most famous creations, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger. Throughout The Land of Mist, characters who evince the ultrarational, purely scientific approaches of Holmes and Challenger are either confounded by Spiritualism or converted to it, as Challenger himself is at novel’s end. In fact, this novel all but negates preceding Challenger stories such as The Lost...

(The entire section is 569 words.)