In Verne's first novel he tells the story of Professor Lindenbrock, a famous geologist, who finds an old manuscript by an old naturalist purporting to know the way to the centre of the earth. Lindenbrock travels to Iceland to begin this journey, with his nephew Axel and their Icelandic guide Hans and what follows is an epic journey down into the bowels of the earth.
The great thing about the Journey to the Center of the Earth is that it isn't the science fiction that deals with aliens or distant planets. Instead, Verne has taken real scientific theories and imagined how they really might affect the natural environment. The book was written in 1864, there were many competing scientific theories about how the earth was created and how it worked and sustained life. Verne really plays on these debates to create an environment that is a unique blend of realism and imagination.
In fact, in this book Verne has really given life to the environment of the interior of the earth - it dwarfs the characters and becomes almost a character in its own right. Each element of the interior of the earth has a scientific justification; from the giant sea they find themselves sailing across to the dinosaurs that inhabit it.
The best moment for me was Lindenbrock and Axel catch a glimpse of a prehistoric man herding dinosaurs beneath the shadows of the giant mushroom forest. Verne's characters go into so much depth considering the world they find themselves in. They take measurements, samples and theorise about how the interior of the earth came to be how it is. But when they glimpse something to similar to humanity, something that may even be humanity living in the bowels of the earth, they are unable to accept it. Instead of considering it with their scientific minds, they turn from the vision with a view to escape and we never hear it mentioned again. The scientists in them are not capable of overcoming their horror at the thought that perhaps they are not the only race of man of earth.
The books biggest weakness is the end of the story. I won't say too much on this except to say that it makes the title of the book somewhat of a misnomer. I was really disappointed when it ended in the way that it did. It felt as though Verne started getting bored with his characters and their journey and bought it to an end too soon.
Despite this, Journey to Center of the Earth by Jules Verne is an imaginative and exciting piece of early science fiction, and one that I recommend to everyone.
What kind of read is this?
It is a fun and interesting read that makes you feel young again. The scientific language and discussion can at times be challenging, but it is worth meeting the challenge.
Do I recommend this book?
Yes I do. I recommend it to people who wouldn't ordinarily read science fiction just for something different. I also recommend it to people that do enjoy science fiction as an excellent sample of writing from the early period of this genre.
Do I recommend that you buy this?
Borrowing it from a friend or the library, or reading it as a free ebook (like I did) would be sufficient.
What do you think? I know that a lot of people are not particularly interested in or excited b science fiction - but do you think that you would be able to put this aside for the sake of an interest in literature and exploring the beginnings of a genre?
What about those of you that like a little bit of science fiction every now and again? Have you read this book and what did you think?