This novel, first published in 1864, chronicles the journey of Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel from their home in Germany to the shores of Iceland, and from there to the crater of a sleeping volcano where they expect to find a route to the very centre of the earth itself. Their entire expedition rests solely on the dubious authenticity of piece of parchment written centuries ago, telling of a man who successfully made the journey.
The story is told in the first person, by Axel, the unwilling companion of his hot-headed, impetuous uncle. This relationship injects a welcome dose of humour into the book. As we journey beneath the earth’s crust, Verne’s narrative is laced with scientific theory, complemented with timely reminders of the sheer scope of land (and sea, eventually) on top of our heroes’ heads.
There were aspects of the novel I didn’t like, however. Once the initial hurdle of lowering oneself into a volcano’s crater had been overcome, I found it pretty hard to believe that a person could enter a cave and simply walk hundreds of miles into the bowels of the earth. Certainly there were many perils thrown into the path of the adventurers along the way, but instead of relying on their wits to save themselves, too often a rather irritating good fortune stepped in to rescue them from certain death. Verne also has a very irritating habit of spoiling each chapter through the chapter heading, i.e. chapters with names like “We Find Water”, “Saved” and “A Human Skull” are pretty awful spoilers, and “Shot Out of a Volcano” really takes the biscuit.
All in all, I enjoyed the novel to some degree. It’s a light-hearted tale which holds the reader’s interest, told in a simple and easy to read style.