Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

I recently read Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth for the first time.  This is the first time I’ve read it in prose, from a Dover Thrift edition on Google Play.  It claims to be unabridged, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the edition it’s reprinting were abridged.  It feels short-winded  compared to the version of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea I read a few years ago.  I also read a Classics Illustrated adaptation years and years ago that I recollected as I went along.

For me, reading Verne is to get a glimpse at the beginnings of hard SF.  I feel like I getting an excellent lesson in the science of the day sweetened with an adventure story.  As an older reader who loves science, history, and writing that sweetener is hardly necessary, but much appreciated.  I appreciate the story from the perspective of seeing the craft with which the science and story are woven, not because of breathless anticipation of the resolution.

Surveying the science is rewarding as well.  Most of Journey is showing off the state of paleontology.  It’s very interesting to see what’s stood the test of time there and what hasn’t.  I also appreciate the extent to which Verne shows how this is a field of argumentation from limited evidence.  There are only so many fossils and the hunters get prestige out of both the finds and the theories.  Verne’s protagonists are active participants in those arguments and reap the practical benefits of success in them.  That’s as important to understanding scientific progress as the dry descriptions of the scientific method are.  That’s a great bit of medicine to wash down with a two-fisted adventure story.

Recommended, if a bit dry and tame to modern ears.

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