Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
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Dec 18, 10

bookshelves: 2010, book-club, classics, sci-fi
Read in November, 2010 — I own a copy

There are apparently two editions for this book: one published with children in mind, and one with adults in mind. This is a children's edition, which means that there aren't any notes and the chapters are titled instead of numbered, with very obvious titles like "We Reach Iceland" and "Inside the Crater". You could read the list of chapters and get the whole story, really. It's also kept the original names of the characters - the narrator is Axel, not what was it, Henry? (Both are German names, but I guess Henry sounds more English!) This isn't an abridged edition, but there is an additional scene in the non-children's edition that I hear isn't authentic to Verne. Honestly, I was just happy to have this end.

In her introduction, Diana Wynne-Jones talks of reading and loving this book at the age of 10. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, ten? TEN?!? On the one hand, the loopy science and fantastical inner world would certainly appeal to children, though if I had read it at the age of ten I certainly would have questioned the science just as much as now; on the other hand, the descriptions are so hard to follow (because the writing is poor) and the story so often dull and slow, that I don't know that I would have ever finished it.

A great portion of the story is concerned with discovering the secret map in code, assembling a ridiculous list of supplies (that makes no logical sense, in terms of food and water - sorry, rum), getting to Iceland, and then traversing rock corridors within the volcano. And they never do reach the centre of the earth. Where they arrive at is a vast inner world, with its own sky and sea and cliffs and giant humans, giant sea monsters and weird colourless plants. And then suddenly they're on the surface again.

There's not much too it, and while Axel provides the foil to his eccentric scientist uncle, Professor Lidenbrock, he's one very annoying young man. The constant complaining (although he's often right - he says what we're thinking, much of the time) and whinging make him sound like a petulant little boy, and not much fun to be around either. I didn't like the Professor much at all either - he's completely lacking in charisma and can't listen to others. The real hero of the story is Hans, their Icelandic guide, who saves them time and time again, and without whom they would have perished before even making it inside the volcano. But don't worry, he got his pay! Dear me.

Overall, not one I'd recommend, though I hear Verne's other two famous books are better written.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Brad (new)

Brad I've never read this one, Shannon, but I am wondering if you thought the translation played any part in the poorness of the writing? Or is it just a poor story?


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Brad wrote: "I've never read this one, Shannon, but I am wondering if you thought the translation played any part in the poorness of the writing? Or is it just a poor story?"

No I think it's just the story/Verne's writing. I read it for a book club, and most people had a different edition with a different translator, but they had exactly the same problems I did. I think only one person really liked the book, and he wasn't even able to come to the meeting! So the book did get a wee bit of a bashing...!


message 3: by Brad (new)

Brad Good enough for me. I'll be staying away, although I am committed (cause it's on my bookshelf) to reading 20,000 Leagues.


Robert I liked this better than Shannon; the science is not all that loopy for the time of writing - the hot core theory of the earth was only just coming in at the time. Also travel to somewhere remote, like iceland, would at the time have felt almost as exotic as venturing to explore a volcano.

I agree that it is not as well written as Around the World in Eighty Days but I haven't read 20,000 Leagues since childhood.


Jeffrey I saw the movie when I was a child, and frankly did not really concern myself all that much with the science. Its just a great adventure story.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Robert wrote: "I liked this better than Shannon; the science is not all that loopy for the time of writing - the hot core theory of the earth was only just coming in at the time. Also travel to somewhere remote, ..."

I didn't mind the loopiness of the science, so much as that the descriptions (and often the explanations) simply didn't make sense. I had a hard time picturing things, and that always annoys me. I would think travelling to Iceland would still be exciting today, but Verne made it quite dull! ;)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Jeffrey wrote: "I saw the movie when I was a child, and frankly did not really concern myself all that much with the science. Its just a great adventure story."

I've never seen an adaptation of it, but I would think it would make a better film that it does a book! It didn't get really interesting until they made it to the inner world with the monsters, even if it didn't make sense!


message 8: by Kylie (new) - added it

Kylie Sorry you didn't enjoy this, Shannon. I thought it was a rollicking good read! I hope you haven't been put off reading any more Verne.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Kylie wrote: "Sorry you didn't enjoy this, Shannon. I thought it was a rollicking good read! I hope you haven't been put off reading any more Verne."

I kinda have, for now, sorry! I wouldn't mind trying the one in the hot-air balloon - Around the World in 80 Days? - but I'm not in any rush!


message 10: by Joel (new)

Joel at least the dragon (?) on the cover is neat!


Robert That's a highly stylised plesiosaur...


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I love the cover too Joel! This Puffin series has some great covers.


message 13: by Virag (new)

Virag My father read Verne to my brother and I as bedtime stories. Err, I should mention that the books were in Hungarian (our native language) so they probably were a good bit different than the English and/or original versions, but we both lobved them.
Really, it's not the science that makes Verne's books excellent. It's the adventure. Most of Verne's books are centered around a group of people getting stranded on an island, getting lost at sea, searching for somebody/something ect... you kind of get the picture that he isn't aiming for theology or something, but entertaining children's stories.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Virag wrote: "My father read Verne to my brother and I as bedtime stories. Err, I should mention that the books were in Hungarian (our native language) so they probably were a good bit different than the English..."

I'd agree with that I think, Virag: I may have enjoyed this a lot more if I'd read it as a child, since I loved entertaining adventure stories. :)


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