A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

Just finished reading A Journey to the Centre of the Earth which I have read as part of the Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Sci Fi (not a challenge).  I don’t suppose this story needs much introduction really.  In a nutshell this is a story of a professor and his nephew who, after discovering a mysterious parchment and uncovering the content embark upon a dangerous journey.  A journey to the centre of the earth.  Following in the footsteps of Arne Saknussemm – an explorer who made the same journey a few hundred years earlier.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for some time and so this none challenge gave me a little push in the right direction.  I really enjoyed this story and the way it’s told.  The story is told in the form of a memoir by the ever complaining nephew Harry.  Harry does not want to undertake the journey, he is very aware of the dangers and the idea of climbing down into a volcano doesn’t appeal.  To be honest Harry does come across as a little bit ‘cowardly’ at points but that being said I’m totally on his side in not wanting to climb into a volcano – extinct or/and definitely not otherwise!

This is a really imaginative story – the idea of coming up with the worlds beneath the crust of the earth – I’m not sure that anything has been done like that since this book?  I must admit that upon reading, and already having seen the film and a tv adaptation some time ago I did have preconceived ideas of what to expect and I suppose the element of surprise was stripped away in certain areas.  However, the book does still hold some surprises.

What I found really enjoyable was the different characters, the uncle, cool and stubborn who absolutely refuses to be thwarted in his goal to reach the centre of the earth and never doubts their ability to succeed.  Harry, who for the most part of the book, spends his time worrying about every conceivable way in which they may die upon the adventure whether by earthquake, volcanic eruption, starvation, lack of water or any number of other things that I won’t go into.  And Hans, the Eider Duck Hunter, who is their steady and reliable guide.  Strangely enough, and despite all their education and knowledge neither the professor or his nephew would never have stood any chance at all with their adventure if not for Hans – he is the definite unsung hero!  And, more to the point with these characters, is the way they interact with each other which at times is very amusing.  We get to hear all Harry’s inner thoughts, and then we hear him voicing these to his uncle, couched in ways not to aggravate (because the professor can have a bit of a temper) and then we hear the professor shoot Harry’s theories down in his calm, collected way.

The other thing I really liked was the old fashioned style of story telling and writing which lends the story a strangely amusing appeal.  One particular part of the story where the adventurers have uncovered a most fantastic cavern of huge proportions and with some strange inhabitants Harry, who is unable to believe what he is actually seeing but has no choice but to do so, says ‘I looked, shrugging my shoulders, decided to push incredulity to its very limits.  But whatever might have been my wish, I was compelled to yield to the weight of ocular demonstration.’ !  who on earth says that – it made me laugh (in other words seeing is believing).  That phrase is a definite keeper.

Now, in all this, one thing that you must be aware of is that although Jules Verne was considered to be something of an expert in this area of writing you clearly have to remember when this book was written.  Advances in science are always moving forward and therefore some of the speculation and theories of the Professor and Harry have dated or become completely null and void.  The other thing is you really do have to suspend some of your disbelief in certain areas – for example, the notion of building a raft out of bits and pieces of wood to set sail on a massive ocean – which can withstand the brunt of terrible weather – is a bit of a stretch, as is the method of expulsion of our travellers from their volcano.  But, don’t we suspend our disbelief in many of the works of fiction we read?  I suppose what makes you more critical of these stretches of imagination with this particular novel is that it comes across as very factual with all sorts of detail to try and lend it credulity so when you do read certain areas you can’t help thinking ‘no way’ – I suppose that shows the talent of Jules Verne really in that he carries you along on this tale and makes you feel it’s believable (but for a few parts).

All in all, a great read.

In conclusion, my particular book says on the jacket that Jules Verne is considered to be the father of science fiction.  Not sure if that’s something that everybody will agree with or not.  He certainly tells a good and imaginative story backed up with a lot of what was, then, considered to be believable science.  Personally, if I had to make a choice, I would probably veer towards HG Wells, simply because I think some of his works, and The Time Machine in particular, are so brilliant.  Maybe it’s down to the different writing styles and I suppose the fact that my copy of JttCoTE is a translation, and not possible the best one produced!  But there it is.

A fun read.

Rating B+



12 Responses to “A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne”

  1. Redhead

    Verne was definitely one of the fathers of Science Fiction, no doubt about that. He wrote fantastic stories, sometimes completely ignoring the rules of nature, other times guessing and hoping for the best.

    I remember seeing a horribly cheesy 70s movie version of Journey to the Center of the Earth when I was a kid. It was truly awful, but it sure got my attention! I don’t want to climb into a volcano, but I do want to find time to give some Verne stories the attention they deserve.

    Great review!

    • lynnsbooks

      I think I saw the same cheesy movie! I can’t believe how inventive Verne was. I do love HG Wells as well.
      Lynn 😀

  2. James

    It is cool to see someone review Jules Verne. Some years ago I read The Mysterious Island, which can be a bit of an undertaking. It sometimes became boring, but I really liked how Verne gave it that same sense of realism that Journey to the Center of the Earth seems to have as well. I have wanted to read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for sometime because of it, maybe I will it sometime after I finish one of my other books. Thanks for the review!

    • lynnsbooks

      I actually did like the look of The Mysterious Island but have also looked at 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – perhaps if you read 20,000 you should let me know and I’ll try and check it out at the same time. Thanks for stopping by.
      Lynn 😀

      • James

        Actually, I did just take a look to see if I could find 20,000, and I was able to get it for my ereader from Project Gutenberg, so I will have put it in there soon. I only have about 100 pages left on my current fiction book right now, would you be interested in reading 20,000 starting in February? I don’t know if that would be too soon after you have already read this other Jules Verne book though. Or I could just wait a bit. I am thinking of reading two non-fiction books for education while also reading one classic fiction book at the same time as well. Let me know if you are up to reading it so soon, and I will start, or I will pick something else. No rush!

  3. lynnsbooks

    Yeah, probably mid February – I thought I had a copy somewhere but can’t place it. I’ll pick up a copy from somewhere and let you know. I like a bit of discussion!

    • James

      Mid February sounds good, I will subscribe to this comment thread, and when you are ready to start reading post here and I will see it.

      • lynnsbooks

        Hello James – sorry we never got to pick up on 20,000 Leagues – I’ve been involved in a couple of readalongs, plus life in general has got in the way – so I’ve actually been reading about half as much as I usually do. If you’re still interested in let me know. April???
        Lynn 😀

      • James

        Lynn, I actually messed up myself, and I do apologize for it. I did actually see that you had posted sometime in April, but I didn’t check the message until just now since I have stopped working on my blog. I haven’t kept up with anything on wordpress since I stopped adding to my blog. I am actually just doing my own personal reading and trying to write a study book for others to read instead, so that I can do more in-depth study of verses instead of doing only one at a time. I am actually not too interested in reading fiction right now, I find non-fiction more edifying. Sometimes I get into a fiction kick, if you know what I mean, for a book or two, and then stop all fiction again for 6 months or longer.

        I know I could say something like wanting to reading 20,000 leagues in the future, which maybe the case, but I cannot say when that would be. I also don’t want to mislead you either, since I felt rather embarrassed for not getting back in touch with you in Feb/Mar like I should have. Right now I would have to pass on reading the book, thank you so much for getting back in touch with me. I really appreciate it!


  4. cherylmahoney

    I just read From the Earth to the Moon, and to be honest, I got bogged down in the endless astronomical discussion. However, Journey to the Center of the Earth sounds like it has much better characters, so I might have to try it. I’ve also seen some movie versions, more and less cheesy 🙂 but I haven’t attempted the book itself yet.

    • lynnsbooks

      Apparently you have to be careful which translation you pick up – I don’t think mine was the favourite one! I still liked it though. It’s a good story.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Vintage Sci Fi: Book No.12 | Books and travelling with Lynn

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