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Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

March 14, 2014

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne was originally published in 1864 and is often considered a classic of science fiction. The story itself is pretty straightforward, Axel and his uncle, Professor Otto Lidenbrock, discover a hidden document with directions on how to journey to the center of the Earth. As a German intellectual and man of science, Professor Lidenbrock insists they must attempt to follow the instructions, journey to the center of the Earth, and bring back useful knowledge to enlighten humanity with. The rest of the book is a travel log told from Axel’s perspective detailing the journey from Hamburg to Iceland and down into the belly of an extinct volcano.

The style of Journey to the Center of the Earth is very different from modern science fiction. The travel log writing style, slow pace, and small amount of action is off-putting for a modern reader (like myself.) In terms of style, the book is far from anything I read on a regular basis.

Despite the differences in writing and a slow start, I found myself enjoying the novel. Axel is an entertaining character and narrator who is constantly amazed, excited, or suprised by the events of the story. Professor Lidenbrock, in contrast, attempts to remain detached and aloof from every situation making the pair a bit of an odd couple. I liked that Jules Verne takes the time to expound upon the details of the scientific questions the story hopes to address. Even though most of the debates discussed in the book have since been decided, and the author often picked the wrong side to back, I still respect him for establishing the importance of carrying scientific ideas into fiction in a meaningful way.

The major highlight of this book is the sense of wonder Verne manages to convey. As the travelers enter this new and foreign place, they face obstacles and discover many wondrous things. The Journey has come to be a dominate plot line in genre fiction, (possibly all fiction?) whether it is to a new and terrifying place or deep inside ourselves and many of Verne’s works make it clear why this type of story works so well in science fiction.

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