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on 6 December 2014

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!
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on 11 October 2016
A wonderful tale of adventure as 5 intrepid heroes and a dog find (with a little help) a way to survive and thrive on a small remote Island surviving storm, wild animals and whatever the elements can throw at them. There's something of the A team about them as they are able to create pretty much anything from the raw materials present on the island - although a few mysterious discoveries help them along the way.

There is also a fascinating dimension as the attitudes of another era permeate the writing. The idea of conservation does not concern them - as they pursue the "extermination" of the island's jaguars, using their skins for wall coverings. Likewise the role of the solitary "negro" in the group as subordinate to his "master" suggests he is a level below the other characters in the book, something that is re-enforced when his role in the group as a "domestic" is now shared with a tame orangutan! "Don't be jealous" jokes the engineer.

It is something of a boys own tale which has dated a little - but it is an exciting, absorbing adventure story that is well worth a read.
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VINE VOICEon 10 April 2013
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.
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on 4 December 2015
Long and dated. Five heavily stereotyped castaways whose fight for survival is pitted against the readers ability to plough through a long and repetitive book. Why is there a need to explain the difference in the northern and Southern Hemisphere seasons at the mention of a month? 'It was June, that equates to the month of January in the northern hemisphere', 'it was now the beginning of May, the same as the month of December in the northern hemisphere'. I get it Jules I understand. The five characters, a faithful and simple minded sailor, the 'errol Flynn engineer', 'the ridiculously cleaver boy', 'the laconic reporter', 'the negro' free to choose his own way but so greatful for the engineers kindness he enslaves himself. None of the characters developed into any one I felt an affinity with or actually cared about. They all irritated in equal measure. Things didn't improve when Ayrton arrived and the book became overwhelmed with religious penetance. The whole book felt unbalanced 80% of it covered 3 years of mealtimes and the last 20% covered 6 months of pirates, volcanic eruptions, captain nemo and not a moment to soon rescue.
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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.
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on 3 October 2012
I was originally put off by the length of this book, but both the author (Jules Verne) and the price (£0.00) made me give it a read feeling that I would have at least lost nothing if I did not enjoy.

The language, despite being written a long time ago, is very easy to pick up and follow. Nothing too heavy to put a casual reader off (I would not have thrown 5 stars its way if that were the case).

After reading through I can honestly say I feel bad that I had such pleasure for nothing. It is a lengthy read, but the length is justified. Every page makes the story strong and makes the reader's enjoyment all the more full.

The characters are well fleshed out and every one of them is different enough from every other to make the group truly enjoyable to read about. Jules Verne has a talent for making you deeply care about his characters, praise their victories and genuinely feel fearful of turning the page when you know a failure is coming.

I would highly recommend reading 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (another Jules Verne classic) as this does have a tie in to that title that will make far more sense if you are familiar with the aforementioned work and its characters/events.

I don't think this title got the fame it deserved, I only hope people continue to read it in the modern day. For it is a title that truly deserves a wider audience.
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on 26 November 2013
At times I struggled with this book and nearly gave up reading it several times. To the modern reader the writing is stilted and shows little, if any, emotion. The scientific explanations of what the engineer was achieving are long winded and too complicated for an ordinary person to understand and quite honestly, unbelievable. Lots of Latin
names for flora and fauna.
However the story is simple. During the American Civil War,prisoners escape in a hot air balloon and crash land on an unknown island in the Pacific. There they set about creating a habitat, cultivating food and making life easier for themselves with the aid of their leader, engineer Cyrus Harding. What he achieves is beyond believable for a castaways.
When in dire need at times, something always mysteriously appears or occurs to come to their aid.
It was worth persevering but I must admit I did jump whole paragraphs at times.
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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
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on 7 January 2013
I enjoyed reading this because it is an adventurous romp about survival on a deserted island, and contains enough suspense and mystery to keep me reading. I found Verne's lengthy descriptions too detailed for my taste as indeed were his detailed scientific accounts of how the survivors were able to manufacture so many goods using the raw materials at hand. It is amazing what these fictitious men are able to do for themselves, and I don't know if the science is accurate, but it is impressive. I found myself skim reading some of the scientific descriptions in order to get on with the action part of the story. I found it a good read and was always keen to get back into it. I especially love the fact that I was able to download and read this classic tale free of charge! I gave it a four instead of a 5 because of the long descriptions which I ended up skim reading.
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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.?
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