Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Of Shipwreck and Pirates and All Things Adventurous

Let's have some fun with a couple of book reviews this week. :)

To be honest, I'm not sure exactly which ones. But I think--yes, I think today calls for a taste of drama, adventure, fiction--something like that.

Definitely Jules Verne--by far the greatest science fiction author I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

(Not that I've read that many.)

Today's review: The Mysterious Island.

Jules Verne wrote a couple of books set in America; most of his books center around a brave Englishman making a scientific discovery or taking a daring trip. But occasionally, he allows the accolades of bravery to an American when he finds a worthy recipient. Verne's presentation of America is much the same as Dickens'. We're a bunch of greedy cutthroats with coarse manners, riotous elections, and little to no human sympathy. Being biased, I wouldn't pass an opinion on that particular view, but we do laugh uproariously when hearing such things as "An American can scarcely remain unmoved at the sight of sixty thousand dollars." Too, too true.

In The Mysterious Island, however, he abandons all such previous opinions  and produces a group of really stellar citizens that I am proud to own as my countrymen, however fictional they may be.

THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (non illustrated)The Cast

Cyrus Harding--valiant army captain, and walking encyclopedia of useful knowledge. You'd almost think he studied ahead of time for the occasion...
Gideon Spillet--army reporter, very supportive, and bright as well; great man to have along in an expedition
Pencroft--definitely the humor element. A sailor, whose knowledge of ships come in handy, though he does make a mistake or two. And loses a tooth...
Neb--former slave, devoted to his master Cyrus Harding.
Herbert Brown--Pencroft's young protegee, about fifteen or so when the adventure begins. Bright lad, orphan, and very brave.
Top--the dog. Cyrus Harding's dog, I might add.

The Story

Ever wanted to find out the fate of Captain Nemo? (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea)

You can, if you read The Mysterious Islands.

Ever wanted to find out the fate of Ayrton? (for the dedicated Verne fan; In Search of the Castaways)

You can, if you read this epic adventure novel.

Five Americans escape capture from a Confederate city during the American Civil War; and their method of escape: quite simple. The Governor of Richmond has a balloon anchored in the public square, ready to launch when weather permits to cross the battle lines and get a message to General Lee. So, the five intrepid souls launch it themselves in the midst of a storm. The only problem is the weather, really. It blows them off their course and wrecks the balloon on an island just over 1,500 miles east of New Zealand.

One of their expedition disappears. Cyrus Harding, the most beloved, the most noble, the brightest of them all.

They find him eventually in a cave on another side of the island, with no remembrance of how he reached it--and the footprints leading up to the cave are not his.  Gradually, they establish a life, inventing their own gunpowder, excavating a house for themselves, and even beginning a boat so that they can escape from the island. Taming an orangutan and fighting off wild animals offer a spice of variety to their otherwise peaceful existence.

But a few mysterious incidents lead them to suspect that they're not alone. Then they find a message in a bottle from someone trapped on a neighboring island. Pirates anchor along the coast, preparing to land.

Everything falls apart when Herbert Brown is wounded by pirates, succumbing to a strange fever for which they have no cure. And the mysterious rumblings in an extinct volcano warn them that time is running out. Will they ever see America again? And if so, will they return with as many as they left?

With swashbuckling pirate fights, interesting inventions, and twists of mystery, The Mysterious Island offers a unique spin on the normal shipwreck drama.

My Thoughts
You will require just a bit of perseverance in Book One (there are three books). This one covers the main portion of their building and scientific exploits on the island. But it's well worth it, and lays a good groundwork for the rest of the book. My record is five days for the entire book. :)

Scientifically speaking, the most interesting discussion they have centers around a replacement for fuel when coal ran out, as they saw the supplies were dwindling during that time. They speculated that water would replace it.

I don't remember off the top of my head any language, but be on the lookout for it, as it's a Verne.

Also, though Verne did have some belief in God, his works support theistic evolution--the belief that God and evolution are compatible. While this comes up more during Journey to the Center of the Earth, you may find the occasional evolutionary comment.

The Mysterious Island offers a fun and enlightening read; be sure to carry it with you when you are shipwrecked, as it will be immensely helpful. I recommend this to all readers, and it's a great read-aloud for all ages. I enjoy the edition illustrated by N.C. Wyeth.

The Movie
As for that 1961 twaddle with giant chickens, giant bees, and giant crabs, which has the indecency to claim inspiration from Jules Verne-- It. Is. Not. Accurate. (Sorry, I just had to get that out.)

I highly recommend Jules Verne for real and biblically grounded science fiction. This is the real stuff--not aliens and weird substances that have no basis for reality, but God-given inspiration and creativity to produce realistic inventions. It has been aid that all of his predictions as far as weapons, space travel, etc., have been fulfilled--except, of course, Journey to the Center of the Earth (which I hope to review in future.)

If you've never enjoyed Verne's stellar works, now would be a very good time to start. :)

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Dear Lady B,
    Aaahhhh... epic adventure. (happy sigh :D :D)
    It was really fun when you read another of Verne's books Matthias Sandorf. That was an AWESOME read. :D :D
    Wonderful review!
    Love, Sister

    1. I shall have to review Mathias Sandorf sometime. :) Point Pescade and Cape Matifou... the best of friends.

      You will love The Mysterious Island. :D

      Love and cuddles,

  2. Sounds Fascinating!
    I am in a ship/adventure/islands/pirates sort of mood as it is...but I assure you, it is not standing in the way of Thirdly! Great post-the book intrigues me. And I love N.C. Wyeth's illustrations!

    -EH ;)

    1. Can't wait to see Thirdly and Otherly. (If Otherly is to be released to your waiting fans. :) The Mysterious Island would give you some great inspiration for it.

      -Schuyler ;)

      P.S. May want to watch the mail this week for news concerning the party...

      P.P.S. Perhaps a little chat on Thursday. :)

  3. This was a really good book (and a really long book!). It was the first of Verne's books that I had ever read, much less read aloud.

    I think we finished up that one and also read Robinson Crusoe in the same summer--kind of felt like we were at the beach the whole time:). I also vividly remember the conversation that Lady B makes reference to. The men were all discussing one of the issues of their time which was whether or not the earth would run out of coal. They speculated as to what would happen and proposed some solutions--none of which included the gasoline-powered engine which would make huge changes. It reminded me that we are not the first generation to face perplexing questions of that nature. I can have hope because it's likely that the Lord has chosen not to reveal everything to us yet (and we think we know pretty much everything....).

    Who knew one could get so philosophical with Verne?:)

    I also (tried) to watch the movie, hoping against hope that it would somewhat resemble the original story. When the mother and daughter arrived on the island, though, it was the beginning of the end. I know that there are a lot of up and coming movie makers and I believe that someone, someday, will do beautiful justice to a Verne tale.

    Thank you, Lady B for this engaging review today!

  4. '"An American can scarcely remain unmoved at the sight of sixty thousand dollars." Too, too true.'


    I've never read "The Mysterious Island" although everyone tells me that it's great. It does sound rather good!

    1. Thought my international friends might get a chuckle out of that quote. ;) We're in gales of laughter every time we hear it.

      I think you would really enjoy this one; I've enjoyed every Verne I've read, with just a couple of exceptions. Classic story, and lots of fun. :)


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