Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Narrator: Simon Prebble
Series: Extraordinary Voyages #3
Published by Blackstone Audiobooks on May 23, 2008 (first published November 25, 1864)
Source: Library
Genres: Classic, Science Fiction
Length: 7 hrs 43 mins
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
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three-stars

Geologist Otto Lidenbrock is perusing an ancient Icelandic manuscript when he discovers a mysterious encrypted note. The message reveals the account of a sixteenth-century explorer who claims to have found a passageway to the center of the earth.

In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the impetuous professor, together with his quaking nephew, Axel, and their devoted guide, Hans, sets off immediately for Iceland. Descending through the belly of a volcano into the bowels of the Earth, they discover an astonishing subterranean world of prehistoric proportions.

A classic of science fiction that helped give birth to the genre, this imaginative speculation on the earth’s nature is both a rousing adventure story and an apt portrait of the psychology of the questing scientist.

I’ve read three of Verne’s books now, the three biggies, Around the World in 80 Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and I just finished Journey to the Center of the Earth. As far as I can tell, here’s what they all have in common, aside from the “journey” plot. Each has a lot of really boring parts interspersed with some thrilling, brief adventures. And I’m not sure the exciting parts outweigh the mind-numbing bits.

A geologist finds a hidden scrap of paper, deciphers what it says with the help of his nephew, and decides to follow what it says and make the journey to the center of the earth. They don’t actually get there by the way. The geologist takes his nephew with him and they find a guide in Iceland.

What they do discover is a vast subterranean cavern. This underground world is lit by electrically charged gas at the ceiling and is filled with a very deep subterranean ocean, surrounded by a rocky coastline covered in petrified trees and giant mushrooms. They set sail on this sea, which is where two of their big adventures occur, observing a fight between giant ichthyosaurus and a plesiosaurus, and surviving a lightning storm.

The writing is wonderfully descriptive and the characters each have their own personality which shows through in how they deal with the unknown and the setbacks they face. But, there is a lot of information about rock structures and scientific instruments and distance.

Ah well, it’s rarely a bad choice to read a classic and Journey to the Center of the Earth was good, but maybe I’d rather watch the movie. Is that heresy?

About Jules Verne

Jules Gabriel Verne ( 8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwright.

Verne was born to bourgeois parents in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, but quit the profession early in life to write for magazines and the stage. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a widely popular series of scrupulously researched adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Verne is generally considered a major literary author in France and most of Europe, where he has had a wide influence on the literary avant-garde and on surrealism. He has sometimes been called the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title that has also been given to H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.

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