Reading The Mysterious Island marks the third work of Jules Verne which I’ve completed. It concerns five Union prisoners who escape from Richmond in 1864 by using the confusion of a passing hurricane to steal a balloon. You likely can already see a problem developing, right? Going up in a balloon during a hurricane! This action, while freeing them from the Confederates, at the same time leads to them flying all to way to an uninhabited and uncharted island in the South Pacific! At least the confines of their prison have been enlarged from a POW camp to an island. This is a true Robinsonade (named after the incomparable novel written by Daniel Defoe): these five prisoners, of varying backgrounds, must survive off the land and build a civilization from scratch. Various obstacles ranging from jaguar attacks to orangutangs capturing their dwelling place to pirates all try to impede them from this goal. Overall, this was a very entertaining work: only the overabundant digressions into scientific topics detract from it–interesting to be sure, but it does almost feel like a text book at times.
The other two works comprising my experience of Jules Verne are Around the World in Eighty Days and the little known Adventures of Captain Hatteras, which concerns an English expedition to the North Pole. (The latter is particularly memorable for me because of the footnotes pointing out phallic jokes; however, I would never have caught these jokes if not for the footnotes in the Oxford edition! Which almost makes me think the translator was making them up, no matter how good his arguments. Whenever you see a footnote which makes you say “Why’s that there?”, you might just have read a phallic joke.) Though Verne’s ability to create tales brimming with scientific information is what makes him most famous, his real strong suit is his ability to create unique, likeable characters. As a matter of fact, I seem to have enjoyed the novels more which delved less into science, ranking Around the World in Eighty Days first, Adventures of Captain Hatteras second, and The Mysterious Island last. The Mysterious Island does have one great bonus to reading it: we learn how a famous character of Jules Verne ends his days–I refuse to say who!