BOOK REVIEW | Journey to the Center of the Earth

REVIEW | Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne
Book Review by Mark David Major

(Book blurb begins) An adventurous geology professor chances upon a manuscript in which a 16th-century explorer claims to have found a route to the earth’s core. Professor Lidenbrock can’t resist the opportunity to investigate, and with his nephew Axel, he sets off across Iceland in the company of Hans Bjelke, a native guide. The expedition descends into an extinct volcano toward a sunless sea, where they encounter a subterranean world of luminous rocks, antediluvian forests, and fantastic marine life – a living past that holds the secrets to the origins of human existence.
Originally published in 1864, Jules Verne’s classic remains critically acclaimed for its style and imaginative visions. Verne wrote many fantasy stories that later proved remarkably prescient, and his distinctive combination of realism and romanticism exercised a lasting influence on writers as diverse as Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In addition to the excitement of an action novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth has the added appeal of a psychological quest, in which the sojourn itself is as significant as the ultimate destination. (Book blurb ends)

Long ago, I had Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) sitting unread in my library for about 20 years. I could never get into the book and I eventually sold it. When I recently decided to give Jules Verne another try by purchasing a copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), my main concern was I would run into the same problem again. Fortunately, it was not a problem this time. It might be a result of this translation from the original French but I found this text much easy to read (scientific jargon aside… Yes, Verne seems to have invented ‘Star Trek jargon solutions’ to perplexing problems). In any case, I enjoyed reading Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. It is certainly ‘of its time.’ As a novel, you have to accept it on that level or else you could end up hating it for a variety of sins. For example, there aren’t any female characters in this story except tangentially. You also have to dispel any preconceptions you might have because of Hollywood film adaptations, e.g. there’s no signing Pat Boone-like character or dinosaurs (not precisely, in the latter case). However, given Verne wrote this novel in 1864, it is a very interesting read. It kept me engaged even if the ‘science’ in the fiction is hopelessly outdated, e.g. why didn’t the raft burn when it was floating on top of the lava back to the Earth’s surface?. At this point, Verne’s novels are more for the science fiction aficionado curious about the origins of the genre. They’re not for someone trying to get into sci-fi for the first time. On those terms, Mark’s Grade is:

Journey to the Center of the Earth
by Jules Verne
Bantam Classics Edition, 2006 (Originally Published: 1864)
English Translation from French, 240 pages
ISBN-10: 0553213970
ISBN-13: 978-0553213973


You can purchase Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth from Amazon here.

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