Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Axel's uncle comes home one day with a rare Icelandic manuscript. In perusing the pages, they discover a coded message from a famous scientist living in the 1700s. They eventually crack the code, realize that they've been given directions for how to reach the center of the earth, and set out to accomplish it themselves.
Axel was a whiny wimp who complained endlessly about having to go on the trip. The minute his uncle, Professor Liedenbrock, started to get the least bit angry with him over his dithering, Axel would cave and blithely go along with whatever ridiculous plan the professor has in mind. Axel was generally the one with the most sense but he didn't have a backbone at all.
I've decided the professor must be going through a mid-life crisis. Or maybe a career crisis. Or maybe both. Why else do you plunge yourself, your nephew, and your hapless guide into a volcanic crater, not even carrying a supply of water but rather only a supply of gin? My guess is that you're feeling your age and you're out to prove that you're just as virile--no, more so!--than your 20ish-something ward. He's a tyrant but I think I was supposed to like him after one or two incidents where he shows that he does actually care about Axel. Too little too late is all I have to say about that.
Hans, the poor guide, is really the hero of the story but since he's a barbaric Icelander (If that's not a description directly from the book, it's at least implied), he doesn't really count. He's just there to carry stuff. Lots of it. And build things that the two intellectuals can't. Oh, and save their useless asses multiple times. But he's barely educated so he doesn't matter.
There is so much potential for this plot but it mostly went nowhere. There are a couple of well-developed scenes and adventures but the things that would have interested me even more are cut drastically short. Like, "I think I saw this but I'm not entirely sure. And does this other thing I saw mean what I think it means?" short. There was too much buildup for not enough payoff.
This is a classic for a reason but it's not something that I'll remember. I don't regret reading it but the details will probably fade within a week. Other readers obviously disagree since this thing has been around since...1864.
Read an excerpt.
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