Noah Chinn Reviews: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the kind of story that would be hard to tell today, not without sounding like a conspiracy nut. It begins in 1863 in Germany at the home of the eccentric professor Otto Lidenbrock, who discovers a runic cryptogram hidden inside an old manuscript, which will send him and his reluctant nephew Axel on a journey to… well, you read the title of the book.

Professor Otto Lidenbrock is not just eccentric, he’s as unhinged as he is brilliant. When he finds the cryptogram, he becomes obsessed with it, locking everyone up in the house and forcing himself and Axel to go without food until he cracks the code. This is not what you would call a stable genius.

Of course, Axel isn’t without blame. The man is unable to stand up for himself or refuse his overbearing and stubborn uncle. At best, he tries to hide information in the hopes of avoiding whatever course his uncle has set for them, and it never works.

Once the cryptogram is deciphered, Lidenbrock organizes a journey to Iceland, where he believes a tunnel leading to the centre of the earth exists in the heart of one of its dormant volcanoes. And Axel is along for the ride, whether he likes it or not.

There are comparisons to be made between this book and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. But while The Lost World is a ripping yarn and adventure, Verne takes a far slower and methodical pace to revealing his wonders, and the tone is more akin to Michael Crichton’s approach to fiction, where it feels like a list of references should be included at the end.

There are some comparisons to be made between Professor Lidenbrock and Professor Challenger in these two books. Both could be called eccentric and bloody stubborn, but this is mostly a character trait designed to allow them to withhold information for as long as they like, and to not listen to reason when other people probably would.

Likewise, Axel and Malone are similar in that they are intelligent but easily cajoled into doing things they might otherwise not want to. Of the two, Axel is by far the greater doormat, just as Lidenbrock is the more obstinate borderline sociopath.

While The Lost World concerns itself mostly with being an exciting adventure, this novel is much more about paying attention to details and verisimilitude. I mean, it takes nearly half the book just to get to the cave entrance that will take them down into the earth! And once they’re down there, a lot of time is spent dealing with the mundane details of travel. It’s as if it’s very much concerned with convincing you that all the proper research was done, and none of it had gone to waste.

Read on at: Noah Chinn Reviews: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

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