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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)