Edward Malone, a reporter for the London Gazette, goes to his news editor, McArdle, to get a dangerous and adventurous mission to impress the woman he loves, Gladys White. He is sent to interview Professor Edward Challenger, who has assaulted four or five other journalists, to determine if his claims about his trip to South America are true. After assaulting Malone, Challenger reveals his discovery of dinosaurs in South America. After having been ridiculed for years, he invites Malone on a trip to prove his story, along with Professor Summerlee, another scientist qualified to examine any evidence, and Lord John Roxton, an adventurer who knows the Amazon and several years previous to the action in the book helped end slavery by rubber barons in South America. They reach the plateau with the aid of Indian guides, who are superstitiously scared of the area. One of these Indians, Gomez, is the brother of a man that Roxton killed the last time he was in South America. When the expedition manages to get onto the plateau, Gomez destroys their bridge, trapping them. Their "devoted negro" Zambo remains at the base, but is unable to prevent the rest of the Indians from leaving.
Deciding to investigate the lost world, they are attacked by pterodactyls at a swamp, and Roxton finds some blue clay to which he takes a great degree of interest. After exploring the terrain and having a few misadventures in which the expedition narrowly misses being killed by dinosaurs, Challenger, Summerlee, and Roxton are captured by a race of ape-men. While in their village, they find out there are also a race of humans inhabiting the other side of the plateau who the ape-men are constantly at war with. Roxton manages to escape and team up with Malone to mount to a rescue. They arrive just in time to prevent the executions of the Professors and several other humans, who take them to the human tribe. With their help, they defeat the ape-men, taking control of the whole plateau.
After witnessing the power of their guns, the human tribe does not want the expedition to leave, and tries to keep them there. However, the team finally discovers a tunnel that leads to the outside, where they meet up with Zambo and a large rescue party. Upon returning to England, they present their report, which many dismiss like they did Challenger's original story. Having planned ahead, Challenger shows them a live Pterodactyl as proof, which then escapes and flies out into the ocean. When the four of them have dinner, Roxton shows them why he was so interested in the blue clay. It contains diamonds, about £200,000 worth, to be split between them. Challenger opens a private museum, Sumerlee retires to categorize fossils, and Roxton plans to go back to the lost world. Malone returns to his love, Gladys, only to find out that she married a clerk while he was away. With nothing keeping him in London, he volunteers to be part of Roxton's second trip.
Doyle's title was reused by Michael Crichton in his 1995 novel The Lost World, a sequel to Jurassic Park. (Its film adaptation, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, followed suit.) At least two similarly named TV shows, Land of the Lost and Lost, nod to this source material.
One of the Neopets plots, "Journey to The Lost Isle" is based on this book, with Roxton A. Colchester III, Hugo & Lillian Fairweather, and Werther as the adventurers, with Captain Rourke and Scrap as the guides.
It should be noted that the idea of prehistoric animals surviving into the present day was not new, but had already been introduced by Jules Verne in "Journey to the Center of the Earth". In that book, published in 1864, the creatures live under the earth in and around a subterranean sea.
The book was adapted as Czech comics by Vlastislav Toman/Jiří Veškrna (1970, 24 pages), in the end of 80.t's followed by sequel The Second Expedition (Vlastislav Toman/František Koblík, 26 pages) (reprinted together in Velká kniha Komiksů, ISBN 80-7257-658-5).
The book has several scientific inaccuracies. For example, the Allosaurus that attacks the camp is described as being as large as a horse, whereas in life Allosaurus was much bigger. Inaccurate size measurements are also given to the Iguanodon and Phorusrhacos.
Following the stereotypes of the time in which the book was written, the dinosaurs are described often as extremely stupid; For example, at some point an Iguanodon pulls down the tree in which it is feeding, being injured and frightened in the process . This idea is generally omitted in the modern film versions.
In the spring of 1944 there was a radio drama adaptation of The Lost World, written by John Dickson Carr and serialised by the BBC. Alien Voices also did a "radio drama" of The Lost World for audio cassette. Voice actors included Leonard Nimoy.
The novel was also adapted to film in 1960, 1992 and 1998. A sequel to the 1992 film, Return to the Lost World, was also released that year. The novel also inspired a 2001 television mini-series, starring Bob Hoskins and Peter Falk, and a 1999 cable television adaptation that led to television series that ran for three seasons from 1999.
A 1999 television movie based on Journey to the Center of the Earth contained several aspects from The Lost World; a war between a tribe of primitive humans and a tribe of "missing links". However, the "missing links" in this adaptation were not ape-men, but rather reptilian humanoids, called "Soroids" by the human tribe.
The 2002 animated adventure Dinosaur Island (2002 film) is an attempt to blend the original story with the popular reality series format, and was written by John Loy, writer of similar shows such as The Land Before Time.
In 2005 a direct-to-video Leigh Scott film was released by The Asylum Home Entertainment. Called King of the Lost World it stars Bruce Boxleitner, Jeff Denton, Rhett Giles, and Steve Railsback. It was written by David Michael Latt and Carlos de los Rios and it is billed as a "modern retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fantasy action-adventure classic" which is itself described as "the epic story that inspired King Kong and Jurassic Park."
At least two of the characters in Michael Crichton's novel The Lost World mention a palaeontologist called John Roxton. However, Crichton's Roxton, who is never seen, is something of an idiot, wrongly identifying one dinosaur and publishing a report stating that the braincase of Tyrannosaurus rex is the same as that of a frog's and thus possesses a visual system attuned strictly to movement.