Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne — ISBN 9781435115552 — ****
Genre: Science Fiction
Time to Read: Six Days
Journey to the Center of the Earth is a book about three men who attempt the impossible. It is set in 1863, Germany. One day, the eccentric professor Otto Lindenbrock discovers a note in an old journal that once belonged to the celebrated scientist Arne Saknussemm. After translating the note, he learns that Saknusseumm once found a path that lead to the center of the Earth. Thrilled with his find, and with the prospect of discovering the way and documenting it for science, Herr Lindenbrock drags his more cautious nephew (and the narrator of the story) Axel to Iceland, where the extinct volcano that is to act as the gateway waits. There, they meet Hans, the stoic Icelander, who agrees to guide them to the volcano then assist them on their journey. Together, the three men face great adventure and peril as they journey to the center of the Earth, Professor Lindenbrock taking scientific notes and readings, Hans keeping the exuberant Otto out of harm, and Axel wondering all the while if they will ever return to Germany, where his beloved fiancée Graüben awaits his return.
First off, I have to admit I was a little unsure about my decision to read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. I always loved the old 1959 movie as a child, and was vaguely familiar with the story and excited to read it as Jules Verne had written it, but I wasn’t confident in my ability to enjoy reading a book that was published in 1864. The language in older books isn’t always something I enjoy, and the fact that to original manuscript was written in French made me even less certain. It did take me a few chapters to grow accustomed to Jules Verne’s style of writing, but I truly did end up fully enjoying the book. The chapters are extremely short (average 3 pages in my copy, which is actually a compilation that also contains Around the World in 80 Days and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea), so it’s easy to read a chapter or two, then set it down. As someone who hates putting a book down mid-chapter, I fully appreciated this. The 1st person narration was conversational and easy to follow. I could easily picture Axel telling the story to me. The description is excellent, but not over done, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the characters, especially Lindenbrock, who I came to think of as the Nutty Professor. There is a lot of old science included, which I can see as a potential turn-off to some, but it’s not so overly technical that it’s difficult to follow (though much of it has been disproved since 1864).
Over all, I enjoyed reading Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was very easy to get caught up in the story, especially since Axel is so easy to connect with as he tells his account of the events of their journey. I can understand how a person who is uninterested in geology, or who is so interested in modern science that they would be driven crazy by the defunct old science within the book, might not like it, but it is otherwise an excellent read. Maybe not as easy as some of the other books I have reviewed so far, but worth picking up.
[A warning to any students who might think they'll try watching the 1959 movie instead of reading the book for class: Don't bother trying. The differences between the movie and the book are huge. I could probably write a whole paper on them. The movie is great, if a little hokey, but it adds characters to the story and leaves out quite a bit and changes much of the rest. For example, there is no duck named Gertrude in the book. Don't let the fact that this is a classic intimidate you. Journey to the Center of the Earth really is a great read.]
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