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Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
by Jules Verne
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspend your disbelief, 26 Dec 2000
A timeless popular classic from the father of science-fiction, I had seen the film before but I had not read the book since childhood. Reading it again made me marvel at the imagination and igenuity of a man who wrote this book remember, at the same time as the American Civil War was being played out across the Atlantic. His description of the geology encountered on the journey and the scientific observations noted by the Professor and Axel make the one hundred and thirty years since this book was first published seem irrelevant. It makes you pause and think and if you are prepared to have your disbelief suspended then you will enjoy the journey.
Starting in Hamburg, where Professor Lidenbrock uncovers a rare manuscript, the "Heims Kringlas", containing an encyphered message by Arne Saknussemm, a famous 16th-century Icelandic alchemist, telling of his journey to the centre of the earth, we are transported on an amazing journey to the very bowels of the earth with the Professor, his ever-suffering nephew Axel and their stoical Icelandic guide Hans.
From their starting point inside the Icelandic volcano Sneffels, our trio follow in the footsteps of Saknussemm, descending along a trail of underground passages, lava gallerys and amazing geological formations; overcoming exhaustion, dead-ends and a lack of water, before emerging onto an underground sea lit by an "electric light", and inhabited by prehistoric creatures. More astounding still; they catch sight of twelve foot high humans who tend flocks of mastodons.
Through it all the Professor exhorts and bullies, Axel despairs and questions, whilst Hans, silently and without ceremony, saves their lives again and again.
The book contains a truly memorable passage when Axel becomes separated from the Professor and Hans seventy-five miles underground. His feelings of absolute panic and despair are vividly depicted by Verne and linger long in the memory.
Unfortunately our adventurers don't actually reach the centre of the earth (unlike Saknussemm), much to the Professors disappointment, instead, after being dragged down an abyss on a raft, they are shot up and out of an active volcano, finding themselves in Sicily.
An exhilarating book written in an age when there was still so much exploring left to do, by a man with an almost boyish enthusiasm for adventure and mystery. "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" has stood the test of time and will continue to do so as long as there are people willing to be transported on fantastic literary journeys.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Penguin Popular Classics)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Penguin Popular Classics)
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Singular Book, 17 Dec 2000
A hugely entertaining and totally absorbing book which covers a further twelve of Sherlock Holmes' investigations originally published in The Strand magazine. Holmes adventures are to me fascinating, revealing as they do the dark underbelly of late Victorian society and many of them would create lurid headlines were they to actually occur today; even Holmes himself is not free from scandal when he is revealed by Watson to be a cocaine addict in, 'A Scandal in Bohemia'.
From his battle of the sexes with the resourceful adventuress Miss Irene Adler in, 'A Scandal in Bohemia', to his foiling of the criminal intentions of the "fourth smartest man in London" in the truly bizarre and at times comical, 'The Red-Headed League', Holmes is called upon to use his extraordinary powers of deduction and his ability to observe when others merely see, in a battle of wits against as varied and as determined a bunch of criminals as ever stepped outside the law. The cases themselves are sometimes dangerous (The Speckled Band), sometimes cruel (A Case of Identity) but as often as not downright baffling - to you and me !
The famous quotes are all in there as well, such as the one beloved of Agent Mulder from The X Files in 'The Beryl Coronet' when Holmes reveals "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." or his expanation in 'The Red Headed League'that "..the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling.." Or how about his musing to Watson at the start of 'A Case of Identity', "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."
If you want to be diverted from the cares and worries of life, if you want to lose track of time, if you want to face the challenge of trying to help solve the unsolvable and be immersed into a book which, just a little, shows the flip-side of Victorian values, then 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' will suffice, read and enjoy.


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Penguin Popular Classics)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Penguin Popular Classics)
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback

156 of 164 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Singular Book, 15 Dec 2000
A hugely entertaining and totally absorbing book which covers a further twelve of Sherlock Holmes' investigations originally published in The Strand magazine.
Holmes adventures are to me fascinating, revealing as they do the dark underbelly of Victorian society and many of them would create lurid headlines were they to actually occur today, even Holmes himself is not free from scandal when he is revealed by Watson to be of all things, a cocaine addict in A Scandal in Bohemia.
From his battle of the sexes with the resourceful adventuress Miss Irene Adler in, A Scandal in Bohemia, to his foiling of the criminal intentions of the "fourth smartest man in London" in the truly bizarre and at times comical, The Red-Headed League, Holmes is called upon to use his extraordinary powers of deduction and his ability to observe when others merely see, in a battle of wits against as varied and as determined a bunch of criminals as ever stepped outside the law.
The cases themselves are sometimes dangerous (The Speckled Band), sometimes cruel (A Case of Identity) but as often as not downright baffling - to you and me !
The famous quotes are all in there as well, such as the one beloved of Agent Mulder in The X Files from The Beryl Coronet when Holmes reveals "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." or his expanation in The Red Headed League that "..the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling.." Or how about his musing to Watson at the start of A Case of Identity, "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."
If you want to be diverted from the cares and worries of life, if you want to lose track of time, if you want to face the challenge of trying to help solve the unsolvable and be immersed into a book which, just a little, shows the flip-side of Victorian values, then The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is for you. Read and enjoy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 29, 2012 5:34 PM BST


Flashman (The Flashman Papers)
Flashman (The Flashman Papers)
by George MacDonald Fraser
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hidden History, 17 Nov 2000
What can you say about "Flashman" well you could start by saying that it is one of the most entertaining books of modern times following the exploits of a character who love him or hate him has surely become one of the most compelling anti-heroes of modern literature. Once you pick up one of George MacDonald Fraser's books based on the exploits of Rugby Schools most embarrassing products it becomes a true test of strength to try and put it down again.
"Flashman", the first in the series, charts the progress of Harry Flashman from the moment he is expelled for drunkeness by Arnold the Rugby schoolmaster denouncing him as a "sorry creature" through the ranks of Cardigans 11th Light Dragoons until he is unexpectedly (or maybe not so unexpectedly once Flashmans character is developed for us) proclaimed as the "Hero of Piper's Fort" for sleeping, sobbing but luckily surviving a secondary siege at Jallalabad during the First Afghan War of 1841-42.
During this journey through Britains Imperial history Flashman gives many eye-witness accounts of famous people and events, all told with disarming candour and suitable cynicism. He is present at the slaying of "Sekundar" Burnes in Kabul, participates in the retreat from Kabul (one of the epic stories of British military history and a truly tragic tale of muddle and incompetence), he witnesses the demise of the 44th at Gandamuck and of course the Siege of Jallalabad. He meets Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Lord Cardigan, the Duke of Wellington, General Elphinstone and Lady Sale. What a guest for Parkinson this man would have made, what a source of information for historians. But why wasn't Flashman tapped for his wide and extensive knowledge of all these events and why did his written accounts nearly never make it to public viewing ? The answer of course lies in his character.
You see Flashman is amongst other things a coward, not a normal coward, but a very calculating and clever coward, who with an infallible ability to extricate himself from the most difficult of situations using his twin weapons of deceit and bluff is able to ride on the backs of others to his own advantage. He commits shameful acts for someone purporting to be a gentleman, including the rape of an Afghan dancer, the attempted rape and subsequent battery of his fathers mistress, bribery to escape a duel, leaving his Pathan man servant to fight off a Gilzai attack on his own, an attempt to shift the focus of torture on to his loyal Sergeant Hudson and finally stealing a dead mans glory; a man who saved his life. The said Sergeant Hudson is revealed as a true heroe at Piper's Fort but his efforts only serve to embellish the myth of Flashman. Through it all Flashman displays not a trace of pity or compassion for those around him.
His libido is certainly active too as he "gets to work in earnest" with his fathers mistress, a farm girl in Leicestershire, a whore in Covent Garden, his Army rivals mistress, an Indian servant, various "handsome" Afghan women and his future wife Elspeth, the daughter of a Scottish mill owner (who unbelievably shared many of Flashmans character traits). On top of this Flashman rapes an Afghan dancer and demonstrating that there is no time like the present even tries to have a "friendly call" with a young Englishwoman on the miserable retreat from Kabul.
Flashman is probably one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. George MacDonald Fraser's ability to mix fact and fiction is so flawless that you have to remind yourself that Flashman never really existed. The description of his meeting with Wellington and Queen Victoria in particular has such a ring of truth about it that you almost feel like checking the records to see if any such medal was indeed presented. Having said that what really makes you sit up and take notice is that there is a little bit of Flashman in all of us "damn your sorrow".
So the myth of Flashman is set upon its course of cowardice, debauchery, treachery and lies in this first book about our anti-hero. The man turns political incorrectness into an art form, and amen for that. I must confess I for one wanted him to get his just desserts and was particulary angry when he reveals his hopes that Hudson is dead at Piper's Fort, but remember no Flashman, no story and what a story !
Do we want to read anymore about Flashman ? Well as Gul Shah told a cowering Flashman in the Afghan cell, "The wolf comes once to the trap, but you come twice". Will you ? Of course you will !


Dr.No (Coronet Books)
Dr.No (Coronet Books)
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Whole New World, 2 Nov 2000
This review is from: Dr.No (Coronet Books) (Paperback)
As someone working far from home in a rather remote area, I found I had some time on my hands so I picked up a copy of Dr No; having seen the film I thought it would be just a written down version of the film. Was I mistaken !
The characters, the plot and events are all different from the film, not totally different, just different. Certainly details like Honey Riders broken nose, just how Dr No lost his hands and how he died (it must be the most undignified way to go imaginable)made the book a fresh, new and exciting experience for me, I never knew any of those things before I read the book (I knew very little about guano as well). Flemings portrayal of fifties Jamaica is obviously first-hand and he transports you there and to the remote Crab Key with the detail that is his trademark, you can literally hear the "background tinkle of the frogs".
From M's Chief of Staff's throwaway remark that the recently disappeard Strangways last report only mentioned something to do with "that damned business about the birds" the plot builds deliciously into a stunning battle of endurance as Bond has to overcome various Dr No inspired obstacles to escape. The scenes with the tarantulas and the giant squid were again new to me. The characters are all great creations, has there ever been a heroine like Honey Rider ? who was beautiful apart from a disfigured nose, or Quarrel the Cayman Islander who met such a cruel end.
But what surprised me most about the book was Bond himself. On screen he is a Lothario who breaks hearts at the drop of a hat, but in Dr No he seems very protective towards Honey Rider and actually initially spurns her advances only really it seems reluctantly bedding her towards the end as a promise to her for some "slave time".
I thought Dr No was excellent and it has set me off on a journey through all the other Bond books, and I thought I knew Bond through watching the films, how little I knew.


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