I picked up this book because I know the chicks dig Jules Verne.
Well, maybe it’s only one, and maybe she is fictional. But still.
I probably picked this up because I’ve been doing the omnibus thing this year. I’ve shortchanged my annual numbers by reading books containing multiple books all year long (Three Novels by Damon Knight; Selected Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe; John Carter of Mars). So why not another three-in-one? Besides, this book is sort of like picking up a split–I have a Reader’s Digest edition of A Journey to the Center of the Earth which I can move over to the read shelves as this volume contains that novel.
At any rate, my dear Clara, this volume contains three of Verne’s works, and we could spend many evenings by candelight discussing whether they are, in fact, the best. Before I did so, I would have to read a bunch more of what he wrote to argue intelligently, as these are the three books I’ve read.
The three books contained with are:
- Around the World in 80 Days, the story of a reclusive and mysterious Englishman, Phineas Fogg, who makes a bet at his gentleman’s club that he can travel around the world in 80 days. He takes his new valet along for the ride and rescues a beautiful young Pharisee from sacrifice in India. A bank robbery right before he leaves London puts a detective on his tail who’s out to thwart him until an arrest warrant catches up with him.
Of the book, this is the best–its protagonist is aloof, but the new valet, Passepartoute, is accessible, so we are rooting for them to complete their adventure in spite of the setbacks and adventures they encounter along the way. We even feel sympathetic to the detective who’s only doing his job. And the adventures involve exotic places and peoples. The other two novels included falter in comparison.
- The Clipper of the Clouds, also published as Robur the Conqueror, starts with a duel scene. A Yankee and an Englishman argue over whether mysterious trumpet sounds coming from the sky played “Yankee Doodle” or “Rule Britannia”. The rest of the first chapter details mysterious sounds and trumpets heard from the sky around the world and the arguments as to what it might be. Then, we’re at a meeting of the lighter than air travel society, proposing to build a giant blimp or dirgible, when a stranger says that heavier than air craft ar the way to go. A ruckus and riot ensues, and the two most powerful men in the society disappear–they’ve been kidnapped by Robur, who has essentially a boat with rotary wings on the masts in addition to sails. So it can fly! He then, for reasons of his own, take the two men around the world and to different locales. Their adventures are a bit underwhelming, and then they return. I guess Verne did a sequel to this book, but I’m certainly not compelled to read it.
- Journey to the Center of the Earth details a professor who finds a several-hundred-year-old coded note from an explorer who was censured and considered a heretic. The note contains the location of a secret cave that leads to the center of the earth. So the scientist enlists his nephew for a trip to Iceland, they take on a stoic Icelandic guide, a load of food, and they descend. They spend months walking through caves and having dry misadventures–running low on water, getting lost–until they find a giant underworld sea, which they build a raft and ride on for weeks, and then they find dinosaurs and evidence of humanoids under the earth before they trigger a volcanic eruption and ride it to the surface.
The second and third books in the volume have a whiff of the hard science fiction about them, where the draw is the science and the speculation, but not so much the story. Which is not what I read books for–not fiction, anyway.
So I was not, ultimately, impressed with them. Not for their lack of imagination, but rather by the execution where the speculation drove the books more than the stories based on the speculation.
I’m not sure what Clara would think of that.
The book also contains an interview with Jules Verne from The Strand magazine called “Jules Verne at Home”. This is a very nice bit capturing Verne and his wife at their estate, giving some insight into the popular author at the tail end of his career.