Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Professor Challenger in his 1912 novel The Lost World. 1913's The Poison Belt is the second Challenger story. Although Challenger was clearly intended to contrast with Sherlock Holmes, there are points of similarity as well. Both are formidable intellects, with poorly-disguised disdain for the lesser minds that surround them, and Challenger's condescending manner of speech reminded me a lot of Holmes's. The contrasts are mostly material: Challenger is a big, hairy, powerful guy, living in luxury with his wife in the country, while Holmes is urban, solitary, thin, and mostly ascetic in his habits.
I found the story itself a bit bizarre. It has a deep narratological defect that made the whole thing seem somewhat pointless. The Poison Belt describes a global catastrophe, which the central characters manage to survive almost by chance, thanks to the forethought of Professor Challenger, who is the only person to have predicted it. But then, when the catastrophe is past, it turns out that they would have survived anyway. Challenger and his little team provide nothing except a point to view the catastrophe from.
The catastrophe itself, a change in the local quality of the ether, was already of dubious plausibility when Conan Doyle wrote The Poison Belt. The Michelson-Morley experiment cast serious doubt on the existence of the hypothetical tenuous medium that was thought to pervade space; the absence of ether was one of the major influences on Einstein's 1905 theory of relativity. All of this was in the air in 1913; Conan Doyle must have heard about it. Maybe I'm too crusty, but it bothers me when science-fiction authors lie about science.
This report is so crabby that I have to mention that the story isn't uninteresting. The premise is an intriguing fantasy, and the characters are entertaining.
The next etext, #127, is around a million digits of the mathematical constant "e". I can't make myself read it, because I already know how it ends ... that is, it doesn't. Admittedly, this allows for an unending series of million-digit sequels that would have been the envy of Robert Jordan.
So the next etext I'll read is #128, Andrew Lang's version of The Arabian Nights. I've read the Nights in Burton's slightly overexalted translation, so I'll be interested to read the version that inspired Burton to think he could do better.