I finally finished this one! I started last fall, then a thousand projects seemed to take precedence. Five months later, I started over and read with a vengeance, finishing easily in just two days. It’s a fun story, full of typical Verne science and adventure. No wonder it’s a classic.
Henry Lawson lives and studies with his German uncle, Professor Von Hardwigg, an impatient, impulsive sort of man. One day, Von Hardwigg comes home with a centuries-old volume, and from its pages falls an encoded note from a seventeenth century explorer who ventured down a volcano and reached the center of the earth. Despite young Henry’s reticence, Von Hardwigg decides on the spot to duplicate the journey.
They engage an Icelandic guide named Hans who is the exact opposite of the professor, completely calm and unruffled (to the point of disbelief, actually, but he makes an effective foil). Together, the threesome descends into the volcano’s crater and follows lava tubes to an underground sea where they encounter plants and animals from ages past.
Unlike Verne’s other amazingly accurate prophetic fantasies, the science in this one has never borne out. The comfortable, inhabitable interior of the earth he describes runs contrary to present day theories. And by the absolutely fantastical setting he creates inside the earth’s interior, I doubt if he ever expected this one to be proven. But like his other works, the scientific thought behind his geological ages is extremely detailed and well-presented. Unfortunately, his explanations are based on an evolutionary process involving millions of years, so I don’t buy a word of it. Parents, if you are teaching your kids from a Creationist viewpoint, be strongly cautioned. Verne lays it on thick. At the same time, he includes reference and prayers to a Creator in a bizarre breach with logic. The two theories simply don’t mix.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is a rousing good adventure, however, and an excellent example of early science fiction. Jules Verne was an amazing pioneer with an appealing style that is still effective one hundred and fifty years later. I have to say I enjoyed Around the World in Eighty Days more, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the most. Over the past year, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sampling what many experts consider Verne’s three greatest works. I’d encourage others to give them a read, though I’d probably recommend a 12+ age limit due to vocabulary and, on occasion, dry scientific passages.