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Journey to the Centre of the Earth (Wordsworth Classics)
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
This book proves Verne's greatness as a writer of fiction. The science in this science fiction flies largely in the face of modern science, yet the read is no less gripping today than it was in its infancy. The story is pretty simple. Professor Lidenbrock, a neurotically impatient scientist, discovers a cryptic manuscript written by a long-dead explorer; with the help of his nephew, he decodes the cryptogram to read an account of a journey to the center of the earth begun beneath a dormant volcano in Iceland. The nephew, Axel, a talented geologist and mineralogist himself, refuses to believe that the core of the earth is not exceedingly hot; additionally, he cares more about Grauben, the eccentric professor's ward, than risking his life on a scientific adventure. He proves unable to dissuade his uncle and thus joins with him on a journey to Iceland. There, they hire a stoic Icelander to lead them down into the earth. Most of the action takes place underground, with the adventurers suffering several trials, daring risks, and finally discovering a whole new world hidden miles below the earth's crust. The ultimate trial and danger they face consists of returning to the surface.
Axel narrates the story, and the strength of the novel lies in his character. The professor and the Icelandic guide are unusual personalities, but Axel is very real and easy to relate to. He really does not want to go in the first place, and he is most liable to greet dangers and risks by bemoaning his fate and declaring his party done for in their foolish efforts. It is he who suffers the most privation when the men's water runs out, and it is he who finds himself lost in the utter blackness of the caverns for three days. When things are going well, though, Axel becomes wildly excited about the mission and temporarily forgets about his fears. This all goes to make him a very sympathetic character. Without him, the story would be a rather dispassionate account of an impossible journey by bland, unbelievable characters. You do have to shift your mind into low gear a few times when the characters begin speaking about the different types of minerals and rocks they are encountering, but overall the plot is rather thrilling, and you cannot help but begin early on trying to ascertain a way in which the intrepid explorers can return to share their discoveries with a skeptical scientific community. Verne knows how to tell a story, and you don't have to know a single thing about science to enjoy this novel immensely.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2011
I am 11 years old and a very reluctant reader and I found
this book very interesting and a lot easier to read than ordinary books. This book is perfect for adventure lovers. Its so good I got hooked immediately and finished it very quickly.
I have already ordered more from this series.
I highly recommend this book for all those who like comics and adventure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 1999
When I first read this book I was thrilled! It only gets better when you re-read it. Verne uses excellent descriptions so that readers can walk right along side Axel, his uncle and Hans on an expedition to reach the center of the globe! This is a novel siuation that no "traveler" ever recounted before so there are many surprises. The numerous adventures and use of first person narritive highten the supense. Fans of science fiction and of great lituature will enjoy this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Be stunned and amazed at this 3D cover (or not) on the front of this Vintage Classics edition, go on and wow your friends with it. Inside the front cover is a pair of 3D specs so that you can view the cover properly, and these can also be used as an impromptu bookmark.

One of Verne’s most famous and popular novels this is still a fun read for both children and adults. When Professor Otto Lidenbrock comes across a 16th Century text he and his nephew, Axel (who is also the narrator of this) decipher it and find that the author of it claims to have journeyed to the centre of the Earth. Of course Otto wants to try the journey himself. With his nephew in tow they travel to Iceland and with the help of a guide, Hans they try the journey. Hans is only supposed to originally take them to where the supposed entrance to the inside of the Earth is, but eventually travels with them all the way.

By using Axel as the narrator we have someone who is slightly timid and thus not the kind of person you would expect to see on such a trip, thus this adds a bit more interest to the tale, and it is down to Verne’s writing skills that such a plot as this tale has doesn’t make us shut the book in disgust at such a ludicrous idea. Instead we find ourselves being drawn in with this as we read of the inside of the Earth, what it looks like and what the three men experience.

As a piece of escapism this is fun to read with adventure and descriptive details, and also this is rather a quick read meaning that you can sit back and relax with this. In all this is still as good a read as when you probably read it as a child.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 1999
This book is one of the best books I read.It's about professor Hardwigg,His nephew Harry,and their Icelandic guide Hans in a daring quest to the center of the earth.Guided by an ancient parchment filled woth a mysterious Runic code,the three exploers encounter tumultous storms,wild pre-historic animals,vast underground seas and fierce caveman.This book has stuff that happens you wouldn't think of.This book is exciting and it's hard to stop reading.At the start of the book it seams a little boring but once they start their journey in the volcanoe it's action packed.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 26 December 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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2004
There are some scenes that stay in my memory from this book. One of these is when the adventuring trio raft across an underground ocean and have to stay on a raft in the midst of a fight between giant nemesis sea 'dinosaurs'. Another is when the narrator thinks that he has lost his companions and his torch breaks so he is left in the dark miles underground thinking that he is forever lost. I truly felt the fear of being lost to its extreme when reading this. He does manage to find the professor and Hans, but the means are about as crazy as so much in this book, (which is a quaint thing about the book). I think Jules Vernes does the "dare to be bad" thing with the unlikely things that happen, but he might have taken this too far and actually ended up by being a little bit bad because of these totally impossible and unbelievable things that happen or things which the travellers survive for a happy ending, (such as being ejected up from miles underground through the vent of a volcano and surviving). This is probably the most enjoyable and visual adventure story that I have read, and actually, although the things that happen are hard to believe, this is slightly in dream territory, and Vernes clearly had an appreciation for geology and things. I did an A-level in geology, and every time that I was going to object to one of his suggestions he would then justify it. (One of these was that I objected that under the earth it would be far too hot to survive, but Verne justifies this by saying that the protagonists go underground in a tunnel made of granite and hence the temperature gradient doesn't effect them much. At least he know which parts to justify. This must be one of the earliest science fiction books, and is sort of geological science fiction. Also, one thing that I falsely objected to is that going to the centre of the Earth is a totally ridiculous idea for a science fiction story because it is so far-fetched, but in the story the adventurers only actually stay within the Earth's crust, which although deep, is only a tiny distance in geological terms. This made things a lot more realistic. Also the exciting atmosphere of Iceland prior to their 'breach' of Earth's crust stays in my memory. If you like the sound of it, read this book.
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Everyone knows the basic premise of 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' - but like so many novels that have made their way into the public consciousness (Frankenstein, anyone?) it's still well worth reading the original, because they're never quite what you think! Like a game of Chinese Whispers, things get so distorted and simplified along the way that nothing beats going back to the source... Really, the novel pretty much does what it says on the tin; it begins with Professor Lidenbrock, a geologist, scientist and all-round intellectual (the book calls him a savant)*, finding an ancient piece of parchment, inscribed in code, left in a book by the Icelandic explorer Arne Saknussemm. When he finally deciphers the code, he is astonished to find that the parchment contains the precise location of the starting point of a journey to the centre of the earth. His interest piqued, the eccentric professor immediately sets out for Iceland, dragging his long-suffering nephew with him. There he hires a guide, ascends Mount Sneffels, and determinedly follows Saknessumm's footsteps down into the bowels of the earth...

I made that sound like the start of the story, right? Indeed, the blurb of my Penguin Popular Classics edition states that "Their journey... begins on the summit of a volcano..." Well, yes, but what it DOESN'T mention is that 100 pages into the 250-page book, they are only just reaching the crater that marks the real start of their adventure. This is not a novel that plunges you head-first into action and excitement; it takes a LONG time to get going, and nearly half the book is taken up by the description of the trip to - and across - Iceland. Fortunately the pace soon picks up once the descent begins, and from that point onwards, the novel becomes a rip-roaring tale, crammed with drama and peril, excitement and discovery, all narrated by young Axel and sprinkled with scientific intrigue. It must be said that Verne doesn't always wear his science lightly - at times his novel reads more like a scientific-minded vintage travelogue - but then another dramatic event will occur, or another wonder will be uncovered, and the reader is captivated all over again. Not that the scientific elements are dull, particularly - in fact, Axel can become quite poetic about his pet subject, and some of the historical details are fascinating - but there is a liberal sprinkling of Latin names and geological jargon that requires a little care and concentration to grasp.

I think it was probably the three main characters themselves that made the novel for me (that, and the incredible prehistoric cavern with its glowing light and subterranean sea). While Axel is probably the weakest of the characters - he reminded me rather unfortunately of Fanny Price, constantly keeling over or going into a blind panic even as his middle-aged uncle strode calmly on - he has a gently wry sense of humour and describes his companions very astutely. He paints a wonderful picture of his uncle as the archetypal eccentric genius: determined, short-tempered, single-minded and completely ignorant of his own flaws. Their hulking guide Hans, in contrast, is always calm, extremely skilled and capable, strong and unshakeable; he is their rock and their saviour on many occasions, like some kind of Nordic Superman. It made me smile when Axel described his eyes as 'dreamy blue' - the sheer awe with which he reveres him borders on hero-worship at times!

Would I recommend reading this book? Well, yes, of course - it is a classic adventure story, and as I said before, it has worked its way into the public consciousness to such an extent that it really deserves to be enjoyed in its own right. It is not a fast-paced thriller, but it is one of the most famous fictional journeys in literature; it occasionally wears its scientific background heavily, but read in the right spirit is crammed with interesting nuggets of information; its narrating character is not the most witty or memorable of men, but he describes his surroundings beautifully. I'm not sure yet whether it's going to be a keeper for me, but I AM glad to have read it at last!
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on 4 July 2011
I remember being entirely engrossed in this book when I read it as an eleven-year-old boy, feeling I was in those subterranean tunnels and passages with the travellers. Recently I downloaded the Malleson translation onto my Kindle (free from Project Gutenberg) to explore whether the story still has the capacity to engage the adult as it had the child.

The simple answer is, yes it does, and in some ways I may have reaped more from the experience this time around, because I appreciated the skill in the characterisation as well as Verne's ability to take us along with them on the adventure. The three main characters - Axel, the young narrator, his eccentric and obsessed uncle Professor Liedenbrock, and their taciturn Icelandic guide Hans - make wonderful travelling companions for the reader. We are sucked along in the whirlwind of the Professor's passion experiencing, like Axel, that heady mix of curiosity and trepidation, relying for our safety on Hans, one of the most steadfast silent heroes in literature.

Of course the scientific arguments that Verne presents through the arguments between Axel and the Professor sometimes border on the absurd, and the sights we come across - including an underground ocean, living dinosaurs and a twelve foot humanoid - are fantastic indeed but there is just enough true science to persuade us to leave our disbelief at the entrance to the volcano.

Jules Verne was a true pioneer of the science fiction genre. Many lesser writers have followed in his footsteps; but literature is a sustainable magic for readers, and it's our delight that we can still make the journey with the original master.
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As well as being the gripping high-adventure story that other reviewers have written about, when I re-read this novel recently I was struck by another side to the story that I hadn't noticed before- it reads, especially at the beginning of the book, as a satire. Verne is not content with helping to invent science fiction in terms of the science- some of which is consciously out-of-date even as Verne writes it, as he explains away science facts such as why inside the Earth's core is not flesh-meltingly hot in a manner not dissimilar to those bits of Star Trek where they tell you how the teleport works. In addition to the science, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth has character. Verne invents in this story the very concept of the mad scientist, in this case Professor Lidenbrock, who struggles to teach coherently at a German university and who is sent on a wild goose chase to Iceland because of one scrap of paper found in a library book. The interplay between our narrator Axel, his mad professor uncle and the reliable but non-verbal Icelandic guide Hans has things to say about the self-importance of science as well as about class and social standing. The science of this book is horrendously flawed but I believe it's the strength of character as well as Verne's fantastically imagined underground worlds that makes this novel not an out-dated joke but deservedly a classic.
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