Ever Read a Jules Verne Novel?

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.

Here’s a picture of the island where our five heroes find themselves.

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!

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15 comments on “Ever Read a Jules Verne Novel?

  1. thalia3 says:

    I went through a Jules Verne phase in middle school. I like Journey to the Center of the Earth, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea best. I’ve never even heard of Captain Hatteras. I am not going to say whether I will go forth and read it or not. Your review would make that information potentially compromising. 🙂

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  2. I’d be very pleased to give a review of The Adventures of Captain Hatteras. It’s very little known, but a very exciting work to read. At the same time, I really need to read the two novels you mentioned. Which of those two works would you say is the most interesting?

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  3. […] Ever Read a Jules Verne Novel? […]

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  4. gpcox says:

    I thought I had read them all many years ago, but I don’t recall Captain Hatteras. umph.

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  5. daniel says:

    One of my all time favorite authors! I also recomend you FACING THE FLAG (1896), where he, somehow, predicted the A Bomb, or at least something which make thing that Jules was not far off to conceive the ultimate development of modern weapons of massive destruction. The so called “Roch Fulgurator” of the novel was just a sort of “super nitroglycerine”, but capable of an unsuspected amount of energy

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  6. Daniel says:

    An interesting little off topic:
    Once a Scottish guy told me that “Jules Verne just wrote fiction, while H.G. Wells was a vissionary, like in THE TIME MACHINE”… :/ I was surprised to read how this guy had the nerve to talk such nonesense like that, especially toward an international well known writer whose name has become synonim of vissionary. Am not saying that Wells doesn´t deserve credit as one of the founders of modern SF, I did enjoy reading his classics THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and THE INVISIBLE MAN, but if I remember very well Wells himself dismissed Verne´s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA when he said in 1901 that “His imagination refuse any submarine doing where a captain and his crew would be suffocating to death at the bottom of the sea”…For a guy who wrote over a century ago about Martians and time travel it´s pretty “funny” to read he dismissed such practical technology and its capability, at the end Captain Nemo and his “Nautilus” won the bet!

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    • The amusing realization that I have never read even a short story by H. G. Wells has dawned on me. Of course, I watched the movie on The Time Machine, but its not quite the same. That’s probably a severe deficiency in my literary education, but it shows the value I place on Wells’ works!

      Yeah, I have no idea how one can say that Verne was not a visionary. I mean, he wrote about increasing the speed of world travel, attempting impossibly dangerous expeditions, space travel, travel to the center of the world, weapons of mass destruction, and–as you rightly point out–the possibility of continuous underwater travel. Some people are just prejudiced without having examined all the facts or naturally contrary, I suppose.

      And one must consider Verne a better writer than Wells almost perforce. For one thing, Verne is the second most translated author in history. As for me, I like Verne so much that I’ve started to read Five Weeks in a Balloon in the original language–Facing the Flag will be next! Wells can wait.

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      • Daniel says:

        I love Verne, as well Conan Doyle, and Edgar Allan Poe! in fact, Poe could be regarded as the “foster father” of the other two; he invented the detective story, as well the fantastic adventure travel that Doyle, and Verne exploited very well in their respective writings

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      • Doyle and Poe are certainly awesome. I have not read enough Poe, but I now have his complete works sitting on my shelves. (It’s amazing how much $8 will get one these days.) I wrote a little about Doyle and Poe in my article on French detective stories: http://aquilaetinfans.wordpress.com/?s=French+detective. Apparently, detective/crime fiction was introduced by Poe and dabbled in by the French before Doyle turned his masterful hand to it.

        The interesting thing I learned about Doyle is that he did not care for his Sherlock Holmes stories as much as for his chivalric and historical fiction like “The White Company.” Haven’t read that one, but his “The Adventures of Gerard” are more fun than I would have expected.

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  7. Daniel says:

    Conan Doyle was indeed a very prolofic writer, I love his Sherlock Holmes stories just like the next, but Doyle had also a very fantastic vein as an author of horror, adventure, and early Science-Fiction…It is not a secret that during his teens he loved reading such authors like Alexandre Dumas, and of course Jules Verne, in their original French editions. Perhaps THE LOST WORLD (1912) was his hommage to Verne´s JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, and Haggard´s KING SOLOMON´s MINES: Four Early XX Century British explorers; two excentric cantakerous scientists, a young journalist, and a bold Aristocrat adventurer, and big game hunter, travel through the Amazon jungle in search of a mythical unexplored plateau inhabitted by prehistoric creatures: Dinosaurs, ape men, and other hideous beasts. This was one of the inspirations for films like KING KONG

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