Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

It’s an oldie but a goodie. That’s what I like to say about books that are written so long ago and yet they still remain relevant and entertaining. A Journey to the Centre of the Earth is no exception. While the original publication goes back to 1864, it is a fun romp nonetheless. It should be noted that, over the years, different translations of the book have been made. The version I read was purchased from Amazon for the low, low cost of free. One notable difference between this translation and the original is that the name of one of the main characters is changed. But these things are trivial, as the story of a professor, his nephew, and a loyal guide is entertaining the whole way through.

The Good: There were a few things I really liked about this book. First, the adventure. The excursion into the unknown was fascinating. Nevermind that what happens in the book could never actually be real; when you are reading the story you imagine that it is. You feel the danger and suspense as the three explorers go deeper into the earth and discover many fascinating things. Also, I found it interesting that the story is written as if it is an actual, educational account. Throughout the entirety of the book, the narrative explains the meaning of certain scientific terms and past discoveries that are relatable to what the explorers see and experience. It certainly is a fun journey to follow them as they make their way to the center of the earth!

The Bad: One problem with a book that is so old is the terminology and phrasing. There are many words and phrases used that we just don’t use today. At times, I had some trouble understanding exactly what was being described or talked about. For instance, on more than one occasion it mentions how the explorers stopped to have “repast”. This isn’t a term most would use today, and it simply means they stopped to eat or have a meal. Also, the pacing in the beginning is a little slow, and the real fun of the adventure does not begin until about a third of the way through the book.

The Ugly: This one is not really a fault of the book, after all, I have to take the time period it was written in into account. This book has seen a few adaptations in the film industry. The result is that I was expecting some of the things I have seen in the movies. Despite all the wonderful things seen on their journey, all of what they see is plausible for the time period written. Instead of finding areas with lack of gravity or floating rocks, the explorers happen upon a world stuck in the far past, thousands of years before their journey. All of it, in a sense, was real at one point. Many of the movies today depict things that have never happened in the earth’s history, and fantastical things that it will probably never see either. If you are expecting an account following what has been shown in film, you may be disappointed.

Overall, I really liked A Journey to the Centre of the Earth. It was fun to see into the past in more way than one and appreciate the perspective of a science fiction writer from a century and a half ago. I highly recommend you read this, if you haven’t already. This is classic science fiction. Like I said at the beginning, it’s an oldie but a goodie.