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Wildly popular, prolific and prophetic, Jules Verne leads his legions of delighted readers on journeys beneath the sea and beyond the stars. Here, the grandfather of modern science fiction takes us to the Earth’s core. The quest begins when irascible but dedicated mineralogy professor Otto Lidenbrock finds a centuries-old parchment inside an even older book. His nephew Axel decodes it, and discovers instructions on how to get to the center of the Earth: “Go down into the crater of Snaefells Yocul,” an extinct Icelandic volcano. As they descend, the explorers also travel backward to the past, through layers of human history and geologic time, encountering prehistoric plants and animals and ultimately coming to understand the origins of humanity itself.
Though brimming with exciting exploits, this journey is also metaphorical—a spiritual and psychological trip to the center of the human soul. While many of Verne’s scientific speculations have been proven, it is this author’s remarkable ability to fashion a rousing tale full of compelling characters, extraordinary adventures, and provocative ideas that ensures he will be read for years to come.
New original illustrations by Rachel Perkins.
Ursula K. Heise is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. She has published a book, Chronoschisms: Time, Narrative, and Postmodernism (1997), and numerous articles on contemporary American and European literature in its relation to science, ecology and new media.
From Ursula Heise’s Introduction to Journey to the Center of the Earth
Traveling to the center of the Earth would involve a downward trip of about 4,000 miles that would cut through the Earth’s crust and its mostly solid, rocky mantle into a liquid core of iron alloy, then end at a solid inner core of iron and nickel. Pressure and temperature would rise with increasing depth, and temperatures would reach about 10,300 degrees Fahrenheit at the Earth’s center—hardly a climate that many geo-tourists would enjoy! Much of this knowledge about the geophysical structure of the Earth was acquired in the course of the twentieth century, long after Jules Verne published Journey to the Center of the Earth. In 1864, when the book appeared, different hypotheses about the nature of the Earth competed with each other. Even then, though, in light of any of the contemporary scientific theories, a journey to the Earth’s core belonged to the realm of the fantastic. Why then did Verne, who was intensely interested in the science and technology of his day, choose this idea as the founding assumption of what was to become one of his most famous novels? And why is this journey undertaken not by a dreamer or a madman, but by a hard-core scientist, a professor of mineralogy and geology who is thoroughly familiar with the scientific debates of his time?
For a reader who first encounters Journey to the Center of the Earth at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the enthusiasm of Professor Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and even Lidenbrock’s goddaughter Graüben for mineralogical specimens and geological theories may seem nothing short of eccentric. After Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift—originally proposed in the 1920s—had been generally accepted in the 1960s, geology disappeared from public awareness as a science that could bring about exciting new discoveries and theories. But in the middle of the nineteenth century, geology was a brand-new branch of knowledge rife with the opposing theories and opinions of some of the best minds of the day. Far from being an arcane branch of scientific knowledge of mostly academic interest, it touched upon the most basic questions of the origin of life and human beings and the nature of the very soil they walk upon. Not just scholars but public and religious authorities believed they had a vital stake in the outcome of geological controversies.
As a scientific discipline, geology had in fact only come into being in the first half of the nineteenth century. Before that, mineralogists had been just about the only scientists to study the inanimate environment, conducting their investigation of the Earth most frequently in the context of French and German mining schools. Their study consisted of a mix of natural philosophy, theology, and the beginnings of empirical observation, without the benefit of an established academic framework. Abraham Gottlob Werner, a German professor at the Mining School of Freiberg in the late eighteenth century, combined the study of rock formations with the biblical account of Genesis. The Scottish naturalist, chemist, and geologist James Hutton opposed Werner’s theories and grounded his own account of the development of the Earth on observable processes and on the principle of uniformitarianism—that is, the idea that the processes that had gone into the shaping of the Earth over immensely long periods of time had not fundamentally changed and could still account for geological development. Hutton’s work was followed by that of Scottish geologist Charles Lyell, whose classic book Principles of Geology, published in 1830, laid down the foundations of a new, empirically based science of the Earth.
But the Earth is so vast and all-encompassing that it often appeared complicated to infer its general operating principles from the processess observable in one particular place. Indeed, huge areas of geology—the 70 percent of the Earth’s surface that is under water, as well as its interior—are simply inaccessible to direct human observation. (Lyell once joked that an amphibious observer who could inhabit both land and sea would be a more suitable geologist than a human being.) For these reasons, divergent theories about the nature of the Earth continued to rage throughout the nineteenth century. While some scholars argued that the interior of the Earth had to be mostly liquid, with the solid ground a mere thin crust not unlike ice on lake water, others replied that on mathematical grounds the Earth could not be anything but for the most part solid. The age of the Earth was similarly subject to vastly divergent estimations, and this issue became part of the violent controversy over Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 1850s and 1860s. Biological evolution occurs over immense periods of time, and in general, the development of the physical structure of the Earth over hundreds of thousands or even millions of years contradicts creationist accounts of a much shorter time span for the origins of the Earth.
In Verne’s day, therefore, geological theories about the origin and gradual shaping of the Earth, along with biological insights into the evolution of life, were what genetic engineering and nanotechnology are for us today: innovative and exciting areas of scientific research that have a profound bearing on the way we think about our own identity and experience our everyday lives. Verne’s familiarity with these debates shows up in every chapter of Journey to the Center of the Earth, which abounds in references to the leading scientific minds of his day, from naturalists and geologists such as Georges Cuvier to explorers such as Alexander von Humboldt and archaeologists such as Jacques Boucher de Perthes. Caught up in the evolving plot, a contemporary reader’s attention might easily slide over such references unawares. But their presence is the equivalent of mentions of James Watson and Francis Crick, Stephen Hawking, or Bill Gates in a novel written today.
Posted February 14, 2006
If you have read other reviews of this book you noticed that some people find it repugnant and others delightful. This is a book for those who truly love to read and who are truly eager to learn. It is best to describe a book in a sentence or two if possible, so here's my try at it: Upon discovering a remarkable map, the nervous Henry and his eccentric Uncle are off to Iceland, where the ancient map leads them to a dormant volcano that witholds the path to the center of the earth. Along with them is their guide, Hans, who, being always calm and cool, leads them imperterbably through fields of diamonds, underground animal habitats, and dangerous encounters. The reader soon finds, along with the entertaining characters, that successfully descending to the earths center will not be as difficult as ascending back to the earth's crust! Again, don't bother reading this book if your attention span is minimal, Jules Verne does sometimes get pedantic! That is why I have given this book four stars. It really is a shame to waste 12 dollars, so I ask that you be a responsible reader and know your interests. If scientific things are not for you than find something else. If your a science-fiction reader, you know that sometimes the author lavishes you with details. So there, I hope this is helpful.
20 out of 21 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 26, 2007
As other Jules Verne books, this has excitement, adventure, danger, monsters, suspense, etc. I loved it as a child and loved it again when I read it to my child.
18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 15, 2009
Jules Verne is an astounding author who, for his time, had excellant scientific ideas. He is known as the father of science fiction for good reason. He set a standard for all authors to come. While the story may begin at a slow pace, it quickly picks up in intensity and realism as our heroes descend to the depths of our planet. For his time, Jules Verne was very advanced. This gives his story an aspect of truth which, with the suspenseful storline, compels you to keep turning the page. I highly recommend this book for any mature reader who wants to be opened to new ideas.
8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2012
I watched the new movie with Brendan Fraser and thought, it's time I read this book. I found it to be enjoyable, though long in places. Definitely look forward to reading another Jules Verne.
4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 29, 2005
If you like adventure in the early 1900's, then this is the book for you. Set in Germany, Professor Otto Lindebrock discovers a hidden, incripted page from the Heims-Kringla of Snorro Turleson, a fomous Icelandic writer or the twelfth century, from Arne Saknussemm, a celerated alchemist of the sixteenth century, that is written in a code. As the Professor and his nephew/lab assistant crack the incription, they find out it is a written discritpion of how to get to the center of the earth. As this journey begains, with the help of and Icelandic guide Hans, they head out for a journey of darkness,strange seas under the earth, wild storms that can eltrify a compass, dormant volcano's to wild rafting up a active volcano. Come and feel the excitement as they take A Journey to the Center of the Earth. What will they find? Will society or family ever hear of these three brave explorer again? How do they live in the center of the earth? Come and join them in this epic advenure.
3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2012
Posted February 21, 2012
This book is so boring! I love classics and science fiction novels but this is the worst of all I have read!! The author doesn't really stick to the point and is always off topic. I mean during a chapter the author might go on and on about some really long descriptions and you think that this is a waste of time and money reading this book but it was actually a great story when I was a kid. If you saw the movie the characters/actors could really make you get the perspective of what the people in the book were realy saying and doing! I am not saying that I HATE this book but if only some author out there could just translate and make this book sensible for young readers this book would be read by alot of people!!
2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2012
This is the best Nook edition of this truly timeless classic. One of the best books every written.
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 18, 2011
Posted March 14, 2010
Lumbering, could hardly belive it saw the light of day. The love interest is the writer's cousin, and she is not there. Much talk about the ground they are covering. A 12 page section that accomplishes nothing. They see a humanoid and do not engage it. Virtually no character development, some monosybolic communication. Ugg.
2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 24, 2006
This book is full of imagination and wonder. If you have a big imagination and enjoy science fiction then I recommend reading it. Although the text is somewhat difficult you can feel the amazement an excitement int the protagonist roles. The ending of the story could have been better. It seemed a little over dramatic and hard to believe because of the circumstances . If I could change anything it would be the end of the story.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2012
Posted August 4, 2012
Posted August 2, 2012
This is a great book. I liked it very much. It is good for people who like adventure stories and/or unexpectedness. The book is very well written, in my opinion. One of the best books I have read.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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