This book is a biography of Jules Verne from the ’60s that has been lying around the house. It was impossible to resist such a hyperbolic title, additionally the blurb claimed “he saw into the future”. Naturally I was disappointed when Jules Verne never demonstrated actual clairvoyance. I’ve only read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea of his, but had passing knowledge of his more famous books.
It’s a short biography and a significant portion is devoted to describing his stories and the effects that they created. Because of this, there is not a large insight into what Verne was as an actual person. His life was roughly divided into a few stages: moderately adventurous teen, Bohemian bum, dead-end stock broker, wildly successful author. It seems almost cliche; an artist whose father pressures to follow in his footsteps, who moves to Paris with lofty ideals but no actual source of income. Obviously in his case, that worked out.
What I found impressive is that a large amount of Verne’s fame was from writing travel novels but he did a very small amount of travel himself. It’s amazing that from the comfort of an office he was able to imagine and describe areas and people in such great detail that many believed that he spent his entire life traveling the world, where the opposite is the case.
The other amazing feat he accomplished was his impressive skill at extrapolating technology. Not only was he imaginative, but he stayed strictly to the latest scientific research and created realistic and believable devices to create interesting stories. He is credited with the creation of modern sci-fi. When I read 20000 Leagues when I was 14, this was entirely lost on me. I tended to focus on the parts that seemed ridiculous, because I wasn’t in a 1870’s mindset. Thinking of it now, it’s ridiculous to think how far he extrapolated with impressive accuracy.
I believe that this book succeeds well in showing the effects that he had on the world and putting him in context. The books he wrote inspired thousands to travel to uncharted destinations and to think towards the future. The final section of the book is devoted to real life adventurers inspired by his works. But it is also clear that many of his inventions for his stories became realised as a result of his popularisation.
Overall, the book itself is not very detailed about his life, but it gives a nice overview and descriptions of the context of some of his more famous books.