Saturday, December 14, 2013

Vintage Vision: Fossils, Rocks, and Volcanoes

Hello! Welcome to Vintage Vision at The Real World According To Sam.  Today I'm going to be reviewing a pretty old classic novel that I'm sure a lot of people have heard of. It is one of the more popular classic books (not to mention one of the most adventurous I've ever read). Doc Brown would be really proud right now if he could be reading this review (to understand this reference please watch Back to the Future Part III). Without further ado, let's get to reviewing.

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A Journey to the Center of the Earth
Author: Jules Verne
Genre: Science Fiction Classic
Year of Publication: 1864
Rating: 4/5


Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)A Journey to the Center of the Earth  was originally published in 1864 in France, under the title: Voyage au Centre de la Terre. It was later translated many times, which leads me to my first point. The copy I read, was a Reader's Digest copy. I had wanted to look something up about the book and I kept thinking I had something wrong because the names did not match up for the characters. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the narrator's name was really supposed to be. Then I realized that in the different translations, names may have been altered so the name is whatever the book says and will correspond to the other one. So I'm reading this through Harry's/Henry's perspective (I never found out whether he was Harry or Henry because the professor kept calling him different things and his girlfriend listed what I supposed was his name but it never lined up right). So in a lot of versions his name is Axel...but here it's Harry/Henry. Since his girlfriend called him Henry, that's what I will say that his name is. Also, the professor in my book was Professor Von Hardwigg. in other translations his name is  Professor Lidenbrock. So In my review we have Professor Hardwigg and his nephew Henry. Just to clarify something that could cause great confusion amongst readers of the book.

They call Jules Verne the father of science fiction. Being rather interested in science fiction, it was thought best that I read the classics that "started" the genre. So thanks for picking it up at the library and suggesting it mom. Now how's about we get to talking about the actual book?

A journey to the Center of the Earth is about exactly that. Henry tells the story of how his uncle, a professor, stumbles across a piece of paper with some curious writing that all leads up to a voyage. The paper is deciphered by Henry due to Hardwigg's persistence and ignorance of daily routine things (such as sleep and food). A location is given by Arne Saknussem. Saknussem was an alchemist who had to leave his findings in secret because he didn't end up being the most popular of people. All his works were burned but this piece of paper with Runic writing managed to slip past all notice into a very old volume Professor Hardwigg happens to be reading. The paper basically leads to Mt. Sneffels. A volcano up north. By entering it, you find yourself on a path to the center of the Earth. What madness is this? Everyone knows that as you go further down into the Earth, pressure and heat are increased and you can't possibly reach the center of the Earth. Could all that be wrong? Professor Hardwigg, his nephew Henry and a hired guide Hans, set out on this unbelievably crazy mission.

Henry doesn't believe it possible and doesn't want to go, but he can't just leave his uncle to madness so he goes along. Along the way, he complains a lot....which, with some characters in stories, would be very annoying. However, circumstances permit that he is actually representative of what we as normal human beings would be thinking and wanting to do! So his complaining is fully allowable.

Professor Hardwigg is possessed with reaching the center of the Earth and stops at practically nothing to get there. He gets into these crazy thinking trances and he's so persistent. More than once the words "Mad Man" crossed my mind as I was reading.

Hans is the chill guy who speaks in another language. Only the Professor can understand him fully and converse with him. Henry is left to be given translations, although sometimes, he does manage to understand what Hans says. Hans is the level headed party member who is just along for the ride. He promised to stick around and as long as he gets paid each Saturday, he'll go wherever Hardwigg ("Master") says. His loyalty is actually pretty cool, as is his ability to make the best of all situations. He gets Henry and Hardwigg out of jams more than once. Its pretty cool. He's all stoic and quiet, yet still so handy.

Lots of craziness happens once our 3-member group gets into Mt. Sneffels. They follow pathways, find caverns, have to find a way to locate water, make scientific observations and yes! Even get driven to the point of madness...especially Henry. He has some of he worst episodes in this book, its pretty awesome to read about. This is one of the coolest stories of survival I've ever read. They find the impossible and it never went quite how I thought it would, which is awesome because I really hate being able to predict books sometimes. Just when you think you know everything....WHAM! Forget it, not happening.

The characters aren't the most deep characters ever in writing, to get them its more of the actions they take and the reactions they give to happening events. Hans never has an extended conversation with Henry or Hardwigg, but then, who really cares? He plays his part, as does everyone else. I dig that.

Also, there's a lot of science talk in this book. It may not even be fully accurate (I am not a Ph. D. in geology or mineralogy or any other -logy, so I can't be fully sure---minus the obvious stuff I was taught in school). It is really interesting though. Hardwigg is clearly a smart guy, who knows what he's talking about. It shows. He goes off on these "Professor-esque tangents" where he just rambles on as if he were giving a lecture, and sure it got a bit long sometimes, but its who he is so its all good. I took Geology/Principles of Earth Science this past semester of college and it was pretty cool. I'm taking the second half this coming semester, so I thought it was neat to bridge the summer gap with this book. It held my interest in the subject and will probably help me pay extra good attention so I can see how reality differs from Verne's tale of many years ago. The science in the book can get a little tedious, but it was never enough to make me stop reading at any point. I wanted to know if they ever reached the center and what it would look like if they did.

The cavern with the lake was probably my favorite part. It was super intriguing and descriptive, full of adventure and unknown mystery. Epic, to sum it all up in one word. To get all English class-ish for a moment, A Journey to the Center of the Earth is really just a look at the human condition under extraordinary circumstances. Most stories are just a way of studying the human condition and the effects on it from external stimuli. This book is just that, but fun and adventurous.

I really liked the copy I read. It was kind of old looking. Like a volume you'd find on a scholar's bookshelf. There were also a couple of illustrations within it in an couple of the chapters and those looked really good to me. They were very stylized but so neat and added to my enjoyment of the novel. Also, the chapters weren't very long at all. Some were, but for the most part (it might just be due to the page size in my copy) it was easy to pace myself. At around 44 chapters, A Journey to the Center of the Earth is a very substantial read that doesn't drag on longer than necessary. I was pretty hooked. Its not the most amazing book I've ever read, but its up there with the ones I'd call pretty good books. I would read it again and someday I might have to buy my own copy of it. A nice copy though....hopefully with some illustrations.

Of all classics I've read, this is one of the most straightforward and comprehensible ones a person could read. There's nothing difficult about it beyond the scientific things. The language is pretty easy to read for it being over 100 years old. I wasn't struggling (I don't usually anyway), but I think even your standard high schooler could get through this one without too much hassle. I don't know why schools force students to read stuff like Of Mice and Men in 6th grade, but not books like this. This is definitely way more worthwhile and much more comprehendable. Not to mention way more interesting. Leave in Hamlet and Pride & Prejudice, but add in some of the better classics. The ones we'll actually enjoy, remember and get something significant out of, like imagination, curiosity, and creativity. This would especially be good for any of you parents out there who have kids into science, particularly rocks, geology,  paleontology. This would be a great way to get them into books and to pique their interest in the subject even more. I would even say that science teachers should start doing required readings like this. Could have some really good class discussions and experiments to separate the fiction from the fact.


This concludes my review of A Journey to the Center of the Earth, please tune your computer or mobile device in again next week for yet another review here at The Real World According To Sam. Enjoy the rest of your week! 

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