Arthur Conan Doyle’s sci-fi about Atlantis: Maracot Deep

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As I posted earlier, my sister and I have a reading club of sorts going on. We’ve started with the theme of Atlantis, kicked off with a non-fiction book, Survivors of Atlantis, to set the tone (see comments in original post).

Portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle 1890

Portrait of Doyle, 1890

This month our fictional exploration of the world of Atlantis begins with a book by Arthur Conan Doyle. Although better known for his Sherlock Homes adventures, Doyle also wrote adventure stories, including many that were called at the time a “science romance.”  Science romances were becoming quite popular: think of books like Jules Verne’s  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  These stories of exploration and danger were quite successful for him, particularly his Professor Challenger stories such as The Lost World (wherein an expedition to the Amazon discovers dinosaurs still alive.)

Concurrently, Doyle was interested in Spiritualism. He was a long-standing member of the Society for Psychical Research, and went on lecture tours on the subject in his later years. It was during this time that he developed an interest in Atlantis, and in 1929 he published Maracot Deep.  As far as I can tell, this is the first fiction novel to treat of the subject: earlier writers in the modern era, from Francis Bacon to Helena Blavatsky have written non-fiction accounts of the place, but for a complete story set in Atlantis (or in this case, its remnants), it looks like the creator of Sherlock Holmes has first dibs. It is also the last work of fiction he wrote before he died. (His last book was The Edge of the Unknown, appearing in 1930, about his experiences and observations in investigating the supernatural.)

Maracot Deep coverMaracot Deep is what we today would call science fiction, featuring the use of technology to explore a remote location, and offering science-based rationales for the underwater nature of Atlantis and the survival of people in the deep-ocean environment.  It is a short book, more what we would consider a novella; some of the dialog sounds dated, as it is period slang from the 1920s.  But the story is entertaining, and it is a glimpse into how a master storyteller conceived of Atlantis, and how adventurers from the (relatively) low-tech 1920s might have encountered it.

Happy reading! And please do leave a note if you give this book a gander. What do you think of it?

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