Jules Verne occupies a few disparate corners of my imagination, and since I am reading and reviewing two of this novels here, I will share them.
First, I read pretty much every edition of “Great Illustrated Classics” that I could as a kid. I would like to go on some kind of fake affected rant about how they opened up doors to me, but really I used them for Book It and Accelerated Reader to earn points with my friends. I think ultimately they proved to be inadequate replacements for the real things (for the 2-3 dozen of the books I have ended up reading for real later on). But the weirdest part is how much of these two books I both know already, and can even remember the specific illustration and caption that goes with it in those editions.
Second, I love the description of Jules Verne’s writing in the Back to the Future Three when Doc Brown and Clara Clayton are talking about reading him. Imagining the child Doc Brown developing a love of science as a consequence and having Clara being a learned and appreciative reader as a contemporary is a really charming moment. I also like to think about how interesting these books must have been to contemporary readers, how hopeful of a mindset they sort of create in readers of the time, and also how mindful of scientific inquiry the books are.
CBR11Bingo – Journeys
Journey to the Center of the Earth
The best part of this book happens early on when the young adventurer is helping his uncle decipher a series of runes and after days of staying up and not eating he figures it out, is completely horrified by the implications of the message, and hides it from his uncle. It’s an oddly and accidentally comic moment watching him watch his uncle.
The book itself involves some funny juxtapositions to the modern world. For one, Iceland has such a different concept in modern western thinking. It’s the scene of such a boisterous hipster tourism, and here it’s seen as a misunderstood and falsely perceived backward place.
Also, there’s a lot of fun, goofy adventure in general in this book. There’s also a funny “Where’s your science now?!” throughline.
CBR11Bingo – Science!
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Everybody else did the math on this one as a kid and thought they meant depth, right? There’s a lot of fun adventure (kind of libertarian, kind of piratey) in this book. A little too much attack racism with the myths of the noble savage to go around, and I would argue zero charm to this book outside of the grandeur of the Nautilus. That said, it has the same sense of goofy adventure that Journey to the Center of the Earth has to it, but it’s both a little more believable and a little less hectic. The professor who gets “imprisoned” aboard is down. What this most reminds me of is a kind of almost benign James Bond villain who just wants to live under the sea and be left alone. And really, same.