I first read this adventure tale, Journey to the Center of the Earth, in a literature class in high school at the behest of our literature teacher who was also our science (and math) teacher. It was a small school. Although this was among the very first “adult” novels I had ever read, this classic story was sadly not one that ever got me hooked on reading. With a recent return to the book, however, I recalled how enthralled I had been in the goings on of Professor Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their Icelandic guide, Hans.
Specifically, I recalled feeling the suffocation, fear, and dread of nervous Axel as I walked together with him, lost and without light in the darkest depths of the earth. It was terrifying! It gripped me, for it reminded me of the time—at age 13—when I got lost in the snowy woods of central Wisconsin whilst deer hunting. Sheer terror, the thought of being along and forgotten! Jules Verne at least gripped my emotions this way and in those scenes, and I can thank my teacher for introducing me early to adventure stories that invite me along for the ride. I’ve since followed those up with the likes of H. Rider Haggard, Lionel Davidson, and Clive Cussler.
While this book is full adventure and set in our world and in normal time, it would be hard to separate it from any other Jules Verne classic, for it’s also filled with implausible science-fiction like any of his other works. The list of impossibilities are endless, but to be an unimaginative jerk, I’ll just stick with two of the more obvious. How were they able to make such good time while lugging so much equipment up mountains and across stormy seas on nothing but a hand-made raft? How were they able to survive such a violent, fiery blast from a volcano? I know, I’m thinking too deeply about it (plus, I’m ignoring the mammoths and giants who live at the water’s edge!).
All in all, this was a great book to read again. I have the “Children’s Classic” version to one day read to my kids, so hopefully sometime in the next few years I’ll enjoy it again.