on 29 December 2010
Five men escape from imprisonment as POWs during the American Civil war by stealing a balloon designed for observation purposes. They are carried much further than expected and end up on a deserted island. Despite having nothing to work with at the start, they slowly begin to build themselves the facilities that they need. But in the background there is a disturbing thought; is the island really deserted?
This is a lengthy book, but I found that I couldn't put it down. The writing flows nicely and the descriptions are extensive without being overly long. The question would have to be raised if a group of men really could develop all of the technology from scratch as described, but with the right level of theoretical and practical education, it should be possible. The book illustrates the old adage "Necessity is the mother of invention".
This is a classic Jules Verne novel, although not one of the better known stories; this is a shame as it is a really good read. Certainly worth downloading to your Kindle.
on 30 January 2011
This is quite a long read but also a very good one. Even though quite an old book the language and wording is easy to follow and does not feel old fashioned.
The story surrounds some POW's in the American Civil War who escape using a hot air balloon, but are then stranded on an island. The story follows them as they move from just surviving to colonizing the island. One of them is a scientist who knows how to make just about anything from the minerals, plants and other materials that they find.
All through the book strange mysterious things happen which make them wonder if they are alone on the island. Towards the end things start to take an unexpected turn (but to find out what you will have to read the book).
on 16 May 2010
A REVIEW OF 'THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND' BY JULES VERNE
'The Mysterious Island' (1874) is one of the lesser-known works of Jules Verne, who today tends to be remembered for his three masterpieces, 'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth', '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' and 'Around The World In 80 Days'. However, the relative obscurity of 'The Mysterious Island' must not be used to assume that this is somehow a less enjoyable or less worthy novel from the master of Extraordinary Voyages (the collective name given to Verne's writings). Indeed, the many merits of the book are confirmed by the fact that Hollywood saw fit to commit numerous versions to film, perhaps the most famous being made in 1961. Another factor in the novel's favour is that it is technically the sequel to '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' and can be read as a companion piece to the more famous prequel.
The plot of 'The Mysterious Island' centres around a balloon-wreck (!), which leaves 5 escapees from The American Civil War on a seemingly-deserted Pacific island which they choose to name Lincoln Island. Over the course of the numerous years in which they inhabit the land mass, they create their own civilisation and stamp their mark upon a landscape previously untouched by man, with the growing hope that Lincoln Island will eventually form part of the American Union. However, as they endeavour to initially survive and then flourish in their new environment, the fortunes of the men appear to be being manipulated by a mysteriously beneficent and possibly supernatural force.
The story itself draws upon a range of other novels which deal with the theme of desert islands and survival. Readers familiar with 'Treasure Island', 'Swiss Family Robinson', 'The Coral Island' and 'Robinson Crusoe' will find many of the set pieces and circumstances in Verne's work familiar. However, it is the ingenuity of the characters and the author's spinning of the yarn which prevent 'The Mysterious Island' from being merely a facsimile of other writers' works. The initial balloon-wreck, and the later action set-pieces (provided both by man and Mother Nature) are delivered with real gusto and energy and continue to pack a thrill, which must have resounded even more marvellously with readers in the days before cinema. In his vivid descriptions of the scenery of Lincoln Island and the monumental events which take place on its shores and within, Verne creates a genuine sense of the reader being there and appreciating the experience.
Nevertheless, certain elements of 'The Mysterious Island' do not stand up to too much scrutiny. The fact that the 5 principal characters (whose professions include journalism, sailing and engineering) manage to co-exist on an island in such deprived circumstances without one cross word is hard to credit. Indeed, there is something almost Enid Blyton-esque in their camaraderie, a comparison made stronger by the inclusion of a pet dog and later, orang-utan to the team! Likewise, the afore-mention ingenuity of the men, which is principally the result of engineer, Cyrus Harding's, skills sees them manufacture not only a sea-faring boat, clothes, and a diverse farm, but also electricity, hydraulic saws and nitro-glycerine!!! At times it feels like the Blue Peter team on overdrive.
However, laying aside credibility at key stages of the book, there is no denying that 'The Mysterious Island' is a very entertaining read. Whereas in Verne's lesser works, the narrative retains a pedestrian pace, here the story builds to a fitting finale, which not only explains the 'supernatural' happenings, but also saves the best action set-pieces to the end.
It should be noted that those expecting '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea II' will be disappointed by 'The Mysterious Island', because Verne fails to rehash the adventures of Captain Nemo and instead offers a very different novel, which instead sheds new light on its predecessor. In short, 'The Mysterious Island' is vintage Verne and deserves (like its principal characters) to break free from its mysteriously relative obscurity and reclaim its rightful place in the world of classic novels.
Barty's Score: 8/10
PS. If you enjoyed this review, have a skim through all of my reviews to find other authors whose books I have enjoyed. For example, if 'The Mysterious Island' won you over, why not try 'The Island Of Terror' by Sapper or 'The Land That Time Forgot' by Edgar Rice Burroughs?
on 23 September 1997
Mention Jules Verne, and books that spring to mind are 20,000 Leagues, Around the World in 80 days, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Mysterious Island is one of his lesser known works, which is something of a mystery itself.
The book surpasses one's imagination and never fails to surprise. From the initial pages when Capt. Cyrus Harding and his friends decide to escape from a prison camp, the story seizes the complete attention of the reader, and unfolds at a pace and in a direction excelling Jules Verne's characteristic stories. The spirit and ingenuity of man is demonstrated in almost every page, as Cyrus and Co. find themselves marooned on a deserted island, and armed with only their wits, transform their desperate situation into a wonder world of science and technology. The reader is drawn into the adventure and finds himself trying to find solutions to the problems and obstacles that lie in plenty for the castaways, as Cyrus and his indomitable friends surmount myriad problems in their fight for survival. They are aided in their ventures by an uncanny and eerie source that remains a mystery until the very end.
This book cannot fail to fascinate and inspire awe in the mind of any reader. One begins to grasp the marvels and inventive genius behind the simple daily conveniences and devices that are normally taken for granted. The line between reality and fantasy is incredibly thin, and for sheer reading pleasure and boundless adventure, this book will never cease to please.
PS: The book has been adapted into a movie, which is one of the worst adaptations of any novel that I have ever had the misfortune of viewing. It is criminal to even mention the movie and the original work in the same breath.
This is a lesser known Jules Verne adventure I had not read before, and I feel it should be better known. It develops a sense of anticipation in the reader that grows as unexpected things happen to the American castaways on Lincoln Island, located 'somewhere near New Zealand'. Through the exercise of his scientific knowledge, their leader Cyrus Harding is able to create almost a mini-utopia for the castaways, helped by their willingness to work together and live in harmony with each other - a kind of optimistic antithesis to 'The Lord of the Flies'.
Verne being Verne, he supplies an abundance of detail on the flora, fauna, geography and climate of the island that may seem tiresome to the modern reader, but he was addressing a Victorian readership at a time when natural history was a popular subject, with new discoveries regularly made by those exploring the far corners of the earth. If it is to be faulted, it is for some inaccuracies, such as the extreme winter climate (snow on the ground for several months) with vegetation of warm temperate areas on the same latitude, e.g. New Zealand, and some improbabilities, such as jaguars and kangaroos occupying the same (desert) island.
This kindle version was a bargain. with only one or two technical/scientific terms that look as if they have been mistranscribed.
on 10 January 2013
I found that this started extremely slowly, and probably would have given up on it if I hadn't enjoyed other work I've read by Verne so much. The castaways landed on a deserted island which provided them with an abundance of every resource that they needed. Between the five men they were furnished with every facet of human knowledge available at the time, which meant that they easily overcame every obstacle in front of them.
Halfway through the book they had established thriving farms, metalworks, an abundance of tools, explosives and an ocean going vessel. All of this was achieved with little difficulty in about eighteen months. While it was impressive to see all that could be achieved with the right knowledge and industry, at times this read more like and instruction manual than a novel.
This all changed in the second half as some genuine threats to their lives emerged and they faced a struggle for survival, while seeking to identify the mysetrious benevolent entity that had supported them throughout. It was great to read once it got going, but for me, that took far too long.
NOTE: THIS REVIEW REVEALS SOME DETAILS OF THE PLOT, IN ITS DESCRIPTION
For those who possibly aren't aware of it, 'The Mysterious Island' is a sequel of sorts - a continuation of (or rather, a conclusion to) those adventures involving the various characters previously introduced to us through 'Captain Grant's Children' and, of course, 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea'. To many, I suspect its appeal will principally lie in the return and ultimate demise of a certain Captain Nemo...
The book charts the endeavours and exploits of a hapless band of fugitives, who - during a terrible storm - crash their stolen balloon on a remote Pacific Island, after escaping imprisonment during the American Civil War. Their early days are an arduous struggle for survival; but under the leadership of Cyrus Harding (an impossibly clever, adept, and resourceful individual - given that he was merely a captain in the Unionist cause!), they not only manage to survive but flourish - developing their very own microcosmic version of civilisation, with all of the many comforts of home - as for years, they wait for a chance of rescue. Yet all the while, something haunts them in their efforts - the suspicion of an unseen hand, benevolent, which guides and helps them through...
In other words, sad to say - the characters, the setting, and the plot will appear thoroughly ridiculous to the modern reader - and that's before I even dare to mention the castaways' preternaturally gifted orangutan companion, Jup! Some readers will no doubt conclude that its quaint but incongruous elements combine to lend the novel a period charm; I, on the other hand, consider that they contribute only to feelings of exasperation and a sense of the absurd!
'The Mysterious Island', indeed, shares many of the worst and defining characteristics of a typical Jules Verne novel: the vigorous opening chapters that subside into a processional and turgidly dull middle section (suggestive of an author who tended to become acutely aware of the onerous nature of the task in hand, once embarked, and who frequently baulked at the challenge of writing it and at the same time making it an entertaining read), only to be belatedly relieved at the conclusion through the means of a rousing finale (that is - his enthusiasm would most often return only when the finishing line came finally into sight!) Then there's Verne's writing style: as a French writer, perhaps he has been the victim (more than most) of consistently unsympathetic translations of his works into English; but I have always personally found his prose to be awkward and unsure, and never once threatening to aspire to any finesse or lyricism. But what of Nemo, I hear you ask...
This is very definitely NOT the Captain Nemo we encountered in 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea'. For this novel, Verne quite unbelievably decided to completely re-invent what is arguably the most interesting single character he has ever created. What we are treated to (when that enigmatic individual is eventually introduced) is a fairly embarrassing depiction of an aged and dying man as a sort of revered demi-god, reclining on his divan (read, 'catafalque'!) in the vast saloon of the Nautilus, waiting to breathe his last...! I hope it won't spoil the experience of anyone who does decide to tackle this novel if I reveal that we don't meet up with Nemo until page 474 of this edition...and that, by page 490, both he and the Nautilus are lying forever at the bottom of the sea! What should have been by far the most intriguing element of this novel, then, has not only been ruined and distorted by the author to an unacceptable level but has also been under-used and squandered, too, to a reprehensible degree. It's a travesty!
So (and this is only my opinion, remember): buy and read this book if you really must discover the ultimate fate of the venerable Captain Nemo; but otherwise, it may not be worthy of the effort you give it since it's certainly no great literary accomplishment or work of art!
on 26 February 2011
This was written in 1875 and set in 1865 and is a castaway novel,updated for the scientific age.We follow a group of men who,after escaping captivity in the American Civil War,crash on an uninhabited island in a balloon.This place .is located in the cold south Pacific.These men,lead by the ultra-resourceful Cyrus Harding use the islands mineral,vegetable and animal resources to not only survive but live in modern comfort.The settlers,as they call themselves smelt iron,manufacture explosives,plant crops,husband animals and even make an electric telegraph.
The story develops with pirate attacks,monkey invasions and boatbuilding.A floating message leads to a mysterious new member of their communuty.Of most interest is the unseen benevolent influence providing the mystery of the title.
This is a really enjoyable read with memorable characters who we really care about.There is a theme of redemption and forgiveness here as well.But the stories main strength is the sense of awe at human ingenuity as Verne teaches us how to tame the wild and survive with style We,as readers almost become settlers on the island ourselves,as Verne creates such a convincing place.There could have been a few lighter moments,as Verne really can do funny,but probably my favourite so far.
In the interests of not giving away the plot this is a continuation of two of Vernes previous works.One being In Search of the Castaways: The Children of Captain Grant (Forgotten Books) the other,I wont mention here.
I reviewed the 2010 Wordsworth Classics edition with some great illustrations,a map of the island,a fascinating introduction by RGA Dolby and footnotes.Best read these after the story,also dont flick forward to look at the super pictures unless you want to spoil the mystery.
This is Voyages Extraordinaires No.12
on 11 May 2014
Featuring a plot similar to the later inspired T.V. Series "The Prisoner"? and "Lost"? The story starts with a group of American Civil War Prisoners escaping to freedom in a Observation Balloon and finding themselves stranded on the titlelature Mysterious Island.
Gripping read from one of the Great Grandfathers of Science Fiction.?
on 21 September 2014
There are hints within this book that Verne was writing a response to "Swiss Family Robinson", in which a family land on an island surrounded by all the tools and goods they need to establish a comfortable home-from-home. Verne provides his cast with nothing - they use what they find on the island to overcome their difficulties. Their resilience is inspiring - their achievements amazing. Inevitably there is a marooned man, and a visit by pirates - and a series of mysterious events.
The book shows its age by its slow pace and verbosity. But it's a classic tale, and I - for one - am glad I stuck with it to the end.