Archive for the ‘Jules Verne’ Category

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Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

January 17, 2012

The Book: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. Originally published in 1864, the edition read was published by Ace (D-397) in 1956. In English.

The Setting: Germany, Iceland, and underground. 1863.

The Story: An eccentric old professor and his plucky nephew find and translate a message leading them to the a gateway into the center of the earth. Adventure and danger ensues.

The Science: Verne is a big fan of science, but I got a little bored about the whole “is it hot inside the earth or not?” debate that continued throughout the novel.  Science says…. It gets hot. Like really hot.  These characters would have died.

The Reaction: I was delighted to find that there was less listing of things than in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But the first 100 pages are just about the journey from Germany to Iceland, which is less exciting than the underground adventures. Once they were underground, I found it really exciting and fun. It’s clear why this is a classic.

The Cover:  Oh this cover.  It’s a very nice cave with some bones and a boy scout in a baseball cap. Wait. What? This book is explicitly set in 1863, and plucky nephews weren’t wearing jeans and a baseball cap at that time. We are very amused. Otherwise…. it’s a fine cover.

Next Up: “There is No Defense” by Theodore Sturgeon.

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

January 30, 2010

The Book: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, written by Jules Verne.  First published in 1869.  The edition read was published by Airmont books in their Classics Series in 1963.  No translator credited.

That's pretty deep.

The Setting: The Nautilus, an electric submarine, exploring the depths of Earth’s oceans in 1866.

The Story: A French scientist, Pierre Aronnax; his manservant, Conceil; and Canadian harpooning expert, Ned Land, find themselves guests (or captives) of the enigmatic Captain Nemo on his wondrous submarine.  Aronnax passes the time between exciting adventures and death defying sea bottom exploits by listing every fish, sea mammal, sea bird, and other marine creature in great detail, noting color and flavor.

The Science: Verne wants his readers to believe that every aspect of this story is plausible, and in this he succeeds.  His descriptions are exact.  The Nautilus can probably be built in fairly accurate detail based on the measurements in the book.  Verne takes pains to explain physics, geography, and engineering in such a way that the reader needs to be well educated in order to doubt him.  The age of the book only shows when Verne ventures into speculative geography at the South Pole.

The Reaction: I quite liked this book.  I don’t think I’ve ever read any Verne before, so I had no idea what to expect.  The book started off with the equivalent of newspaper headlines swirling up at you in a cliche film scene.  It moved  in to a mystery; what was this enormous, glowing creature being sighted by so many ships, and attacking some of them?  I do like Aronnax’s theory of an electric narwhal (wouldn’t that be a great band name?), as false as it turns out to be.  The book has a good pace.  I quickly tired of the constant listing of fish and marine life, and ended up skimming over it, but it made the point that there’s a lot of just looking out the window when you’re underwater.  The bits of adventure are quite good – I was very into it during the ice burg scene.  Well done, Mr. Verne.

The Cover: The cover of this edition features a very sleek Nautilus, some divers from the submarine, a giant octopus, and some normal sized fish.  The diving suits aren’t quite as Verne describes them, but they seem reasonably close.  The cover gets points for accuracy and making actual sense related to the book.

Next Up: The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells.