By Soyeenka Mishra
“As long as the heart beats, as long as body and soul keep together, I cannot admit that any creature endowed with a will has need to despair of life.”
Journey to the Centre of the Earth was a journey indeed, a fabulous adventure; a classic piece of Sci-Fi lit straight from the 1860s. It wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be (thanks to prior knowledge of the well-known movie franchise), but don’t worry – that’s a good thing. When it wasn’t being a rollercoaster of astonishing discoveries and mortal perils, it served as a great source of fun, for I loved the underhanded humour evident in particular points.
Warning: this review may contain spoilers.
Let me briefly mention the characters. The first, of course, is the narrator, Axel Liedenbrock. He is our practical-minded, logical, and pragmatic protagonist. I liked this character a lot, especially because of all the sarcastic remarks, most of which were directed towards his dear old uncle, Prof Liedenbrock. Call me deranged, but I found his perfectly rational concerns about their then-upcoming journey in the beginning of the plot quite absurd. I mean, of course I do understand his reasons, but hey, you’re getting to go on an adventure of a lifetime while we people are stuck here at our homes in this pandemic! Ha, but jokes aside, I loved his character arc; comparing the Axel at the beginning to the one at the ending, one will find staggeringly impressive differences.
Now comes the star of the book, our very own Prof Otto Liedenbrock, the mineralogy scholar who is just the slightest bit insane (again, most great personalities are, aren’t they?). This guy just blows my mind. A man with immense knowledge (that he isn’t always the keenest to impart to others) and a violent passion for making the discovery of his life. His anger outbursts were hilarious to me, not to mention his ability to speak such a vast multitude of languages.
Our third main character is the quiet eider-gatherer from Iceland, Hans (not of-the-Southern-Isles) who does most of the physical labour among the trio. He speaks whenever absolutely necessary, doing whatever he’s told by his ‘Master,’ Prof Liedenbrock, perfectly, stoically, and efficiently as long as he’s paid weekly without fail. It is implicit that the Liedenbrocks wouldn’t have been successful in their endeavour had it not been for Hans, and it’s chucklesome when you actually process the fact that he literally went to the centre of the earth, facing unimaginable dangers with no questions asked but devoted obedience.
It’s finally time for the plot! What stood out to me the most was the writing. At many points, there was extremely vivid imagery of the surroundings which was exhilarating. The icing on the cake was the plethora of not-really-esoteric-but-still-kinda terms that only ones heavily invested in geology, geography, and the likes, might be familiar with. My favourite part of this book was the fact that Verne had given perfectly plausible scientific phenomena and believable reasons to explain all of his fantastical elements. I always love it when the out-of-the-ordinary things have logical explanations.
Readers completely devoid of scientific curiosity might find the book a tad boring, considering all of the long, excruciating treks that the trio set out on in the duration of their grand escapade. One might grow tired of repeatedly going through lengthy descriptions filled with scientific jargon. But people like yours truly who find exactly that sort of writing quite enjoyable will be pleased to find just how well-detailed the whole journey is.
I’d have loved it if the journey had been longer, though I wouldn’t say I’d choose it for a re-read. I’d suggest picking this book up when you’re looking for a quick Sci-Fi/Fantasy read that will not consume your heart, mind, and soul for all of eternity, unlike certain fantasy series.
Find the raw copy of this review here.
Image: Soyeenka Mishra