Journey to the Center of the Earth

by Jules Verne

Other authorsScott McKowen (Illustrator), Arthur Pober (Contributor)
Hardcover, 2007



Local notes

Fic Ver




Sterling (2007), Edition: Reprint, 244 pages. Purchased in 2011. $17.95.


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: A Journey to the Center of the Earth, also translated as A Journey to the Interior of the Earth, follows a man, his nephew and their guide down an Icelandic volcano into the center of the earth. There they encounter an ancient landscape filled with prehistoric animals and natural dangers. There is some discussion as to whether Verne really believed that such things might be found in the center, or whether he shared the alternate view, expressed by another character in the novel, that it was not so..


Original language


Original publication date

1864 (Original French)
1867 (Chapters 37-39 added in the Seventh Edition)
1871 (English)
1966 (Livre de Poche edition)

Physical description

244 p.; 6.56 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stewartry
I have had a ridiculous amount of fun this year listening to classic novels as audiobooks. When Audible offered a freebie (I think it was a freebie) of Journey to the Center of the Earth read by Tim Curry, I was excited – Tim Curry! Come on. It almost didn't matter what it was; I kind of place
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Curry in the same class as Tom Baker – love the actor, adore the voice, will listen to literally anything read by him.

And I was right. Curry was fabulous. His performance – and it was in every way performance – was incredibly enjoyable, and accounted for a good part of my rating. The voices he gave to the characters were dead on; the emotion with which he invested some scenes elevated them; it's purely because of his voice that I don't completely loathe the two main characters of this book, Axel and his Uncle/Professor Otto Liedenbrock. Not completely …

I do dislike them intensely, though. Even Tim Curry couldn't prevent that.

I will absolutely grant that part of my dislike for the book was some inability to separate myself as a 21st-century woman with a (very) basic (high school) education in geology from myself as reader of a book published and I assume set in 1864. From the former point of view it's an absurd figment of science fantasy. I know, I know – I have no problem accepting vampires (as long as they don't sparkle), werewolves, thousand-year-old druids and 932-year-old Time Lords. I never said I was consistent.

Still, despite the initial head-meets-desk reaction I had to a forest many leagues below the surface of the earth, not to mention a life-filled ocean and the mastodon-herding giants – still, it was fun. It felt like a Disney version of science, crossed with Lewis Carroll – fall down the universe's biggest rabbit hole, and land in an impossible, improbable wonderland. I was able to enjoy some of the fantasy.

The parts I couldn't enjoy were simply outweighed by the stupidity of the characters. The two so-brilliant scientists, Axel and his uncle, were textbook examples of book-smart vs. street-smart. I mean, what moron goes on any expedition into the unknown with only a little water? Good God, people, don't you watch Les Stroud and Bear Grylls? Well, no, obviously not, but – common sense, men! "Oh, don't worry, we'll find fresh-water springs": probably the last words of many a dim adventurer.

And the subject of stupid adventurers brings me straight to Axel. Good grief. In my Goodreads updates I referred to him as a damsel in distress, and also TSTL: Too Stupid To Live. Bringing that boy on an expedition (I keep wanting to write a Winnie-the-Pooh-esque "expotition") is like taking a penguin to the Bahamas. I lost count of the number of times he fell or got lost or otherwise needed rescuing – and every single time there was poor old Hans, probably thinking "ach du lieber (or the Icelandic equivalent thereof), we should just put the fool on a leash." I can't imagine why his uncle brought him in the first place, unless he didn't realize what a Moaning Myrtle the boy would become, in addition to being a hazard to himself and all those around him. Every step of the way he complained and protested and fretted and despaired. The fact that he happened to be right in some of his complaints – as, for example, when he protested the minimal amount of water they were toting – doesn't make his constant whingeing easier to tolerate.

And the Professor … a more overbearing, pompous, irritating, foresightless windbag I don't remember in my reading. Did I mention it was his decision to bring only a little water with them? And also to chuck most of their gear down an apparently bottomless hole, confident that they would catch up to it in the climb. And also to set off across an apparently limitless ocean in a boat I wouldn't sail in a bathtub rather than try to trek the shoreline. And then to pause at random intervals and pontificate as if in front of an audience.

Oh, and to take few or no specimens of their discoveries. "Center of the earth, eh, Liedenbrock? Riiiight."

My list, made early on in the read/listen, for tips on a hypothetical Journey to the Center of the Earth:
1. Bring water
2. Lots
3. Be sure to pay guide/servant/lifesaver weekly, even if he can't spend the money
4. Give guide/etc raise after he saves your butt after you disregarded 1 & 2
5. Do not bring nephew; he is prone to both hysterics and despair
6. Do not bring uncle/professor, as he confuses humans with camels (also: twit)
7. Do bring Tim Curry, because he just makes everything sound good.

I don't think the uncle and nephew actually did give Hans any kind of monetary reward for saving their rear ends, on several more occasions than just the water situation. The uncle paid him promptly every week – not that he was able to spend or bank or otherwise appreciate said payment, miles below the surface of the earth – and probably lost it all in their adventures.

The translation used by Audible was an odd one. The only example I noted was this: "His absolute silence increased every day." If it's absolute, it can't increase, though, can it? The Goodreads edition has it: "But his habit of silence gained upon him day by day" - which works. I would be interested in either reading or listening to another version, to see if anything improves … but no. The language wasn't the problem. The problem was that I spent over eight hours alternately smiling happily at Tim Curry's performance and wanting to reach through my iPod and shake Axel and Otto until their ears flapped. It's another of those "could-have-been" books. It could have been so much fun. It just wasn't.
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LibraryThing member baswood
“Science fiction is a genre of fiction with imaginative but more or less plausible content such as settings in the future, futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities. Exploring the consequences of scientific innovations is one purpose of
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science fiction, making it a "literature of ideas" Science fiction has been used by authors and film/television program makers as a device to discuss philosophical ideas such as identity, desire, morality and social structure etc.”

This definition of Science fiction copied from Wiki does not really apply to Jules Verne’s [A Journey to the Centre of the Earth]: the action does not take place in the future, there are no aliens, space travel, or paranormal abilities. The book does not attempt to explore the consequences of scientific innovation and there is little evidence of a “literature of ideas” however the book feels like science fiction, because there is a healthy dollop of geology and physics from the mid 19th century that is stretched to breaking point and beyond by Verne’s imagination and there could also be a case made for a sort of parallel universe in that our three heroes discover another world below the earth’s crust.

Abe books’s list of the 50 essential science fiction novels starts with Jules Verne’s classic story: claiming that it pretty much started the whole thing. I think of it more as an adventure story, which uses a scientific background to add some credibility to the fantastic story line, but it is an adventure story first and foremost..

Verne presents us with three very different characters. They are the irascible, brilliant but driven scientist Professor Liedenbrock, Axel, his nephew; enthusiastic, intelligent, frightened and accident prone and Hans, the taciturn Icelander; servant to Liendenbrock who quietly gets on and does everything to ensure the survival of his two companions. They embark on an old fashioned treasure hunt, but without any treasure just Liedenbrock’s desire to travel to the centre of the earth. The story is told from Axel’s point of view and his early portrait of Liedenbrock is both amusing and witty. Axel is a student of geology and his keen interest in the landscape as they travel to an extinct volcano in Iceland gives Verne license to write some excellent prose on both the Icelandic people and their environment and although the adventure proper does not start until the party reach the volcano there are no dull patches in the early part of the book. Once they descend into the crater; Verne ramps up the excitement and there are some extraordinary events to describe; Axel’s sense of doom when he becomes separated from the party, the violent electrical storm on the inland sea and of course the amazing volcanic eruption near the end of the story.

A story that was familiar to me from having read it a long time ago and from the film versions that I had seen did not disappoint when I re-read the novel today. I felt thoroughly entertained. An adventure story that has stood the test of time, but it’s not really science fiction

The version I read was the one published in 1877, which is free in the public domain and the translation by the reverend Frederick Amadeus Malleson reads well enough not to need a more modern translation. Not great literature, but a well told fantasy story that I would rate at 3.5 stars
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LibraryThing member brakketh
A solid science-fiction adventure novel, though characterisation was a little weak I thought.
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
It's...interesting. I hadn't realized how much the story was a treatise on evolution (as understood at the time). Now I need to read more Verne to see if he's done the same (presumably in other fields) in his other books.
It's a little hard to read - the viewpoint character is ridiculously variable
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- wild mood-swings from "We're all going to fail and die! Now!" to "Let's go! We are great adventurers!". Got a bit hard to take. Verne did some neat elision to get past the most unbelievable part - finding the interior cavern; since the VP character (I really can't call him the hero) is unconscious after tremendous strain, that whole event never gets told. And like that. I spent much more time noticing the writing and the agenda of the author than I did enjoying the story. That may be a mood thing, but right now I feel like there's not a lot of story (and _very_ little characterization - lots of cardboard 'traits', though) to this book.
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LibraryThing member saltmanz
I was surprised how easily this read, for a story that's pushing 150 years old. Some of the grammar had the touch of the archaic, but on the whole it felt surprisingly modern. It did get off to a fairly plodding start, but once the journey proper (up and into the volcano) was underway, it moved
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along nicely.

I did find the ending, though exciting enough in its own right, to be a bit of a letdown. Although I admit that "Journey TOWARD the Center of the Earth" wouldn't have been nearly as catchy a title.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Verne is considered the father of science fiction and this novel was written back in 1864. Given that, I was rather pleasantly surprised with how engaging I found the story. Sure, the science is dated, but it made me want to know more about geology and the first person narrator, Axel, is witty and
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his uncle the professor an amusing eccentric. During this quest to make it to the center of a hollow Earth we encounter mushroom forests, an underground sea, marine dinosaurs, a hominid and mastodons. It's a pleasant enough read, even if rather superficial in literary depth and with a ridiculous ending, even given the science of its time. Worth reading if you're interested in the origins of the genre.
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LibraryThing member Carl_Alves
Journey to the Center of the Earth is a classic Jules Verne tale. Even before listening to the story on audio, I was already familiar with the tale, so there wasn’t going to be any big surprises in the novel. But even knowing more or less what was going to happen, didn’t mean the novel would be
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enjoyable. The basic plot and adventure were strong. I enjoyed the different things that the adventurers encountered at the various levels during their journey to the center of the Earth.

There were a few negatives to the novel. The first is the first person narration. It’s often told in a clinical manner that took away from the excitement of the story. The narration could have used more of a flare for the dramatic. The other thing that I didn’t much care for was the character of Axel. He had some funny lines and moments, but I found him to be whining and lacking any sense of adventure. He was constantly trying to get out of going on this voyage, but simply lacked the spine to tell his uncle no. The professor, on the other hand, was a more memorable and enjoyable character. He was touched with a bit of madness and insane drive to explore and discover. Overall, this was a fun adventure story, one that inspired many other similar stories.

Carl Alves – author of Reconquest: Mother Earth
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LibraryThing member alaudacorax
Some time ago it occurred to me how odd it was that I’d never in my life read any Jules Verne when he was responsible for such iconic works as this, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. So I decided to read some, making a start with this.

Bearing that in mind, I was
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rather surprised to find the book a disappointment to me. I’m not saying it was at all difficult to read: I got through it effortlessly (I had the 2008, OUP translation), but I found it quite unsatisfying.

Two of the main characters, Hans and the professor, are just caricatures, almost to the point of unbelievability. As for the third, the narrator, I don’t think Verne ever made up his mind what he was; his personality seems to change to suit various parts of the story. The plot involves little of development of the characters or the interactions between them.

The plot is simple, little more than the descripton of their journey; and, indeed, the plot lines that are set up in the opening chapters are never resolved. On the journey itself we get a few glimpses of fantastical wonders but they are never developed upon.

Perhaps, when the work was first published, Verne’s imagination was startlingly original enough to overcome these things – but time has taken that away. Perhaps the work is simply not suitable for grown-ups and I’m looking for too much in it. Either way I’m not in any hurry to read any more of his novels.
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LibraryThing member cargocontainer
I read the entire book wondering whether the issue was the translation or the writing. I ended up pretty sure it was the writing. Frankly, the book took about half its length to even get into a single cave. Beyond that, as I found with Five Weeks in a Balloon, the characters are fairly insane.
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There's little human about their minds, and they seem little more than engines to drive the excessively implausible plot. And this from a guy who likes to read science fiction. I'm giving it these stars not for quality so much as imagination. The concept was interesting. The execution lacking.
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LibraryThing member SumisBooks
True to form, this is a classic adventure piece at it's best! This was a great read with something new happening on nearly every page.

Axel and his eccentric uncle Professor Otto Lindenbrock discover an ancient text that happens to fall out of one of the Professor's coveted historical tombs. The
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text explains how to get to the center of the earth through a crater located in Iceland. The farther they descend into the earth, the farther back in time they seem to travel as they begin to see plants and even animals that lived on earth once long ago. With peril and even death lurking around every corner and down every passage, will Axel and his uncle (along with their guide) ever make it to the surface world alive again?

However wrought with tons of scientific jargen, this book is not difficult to follow and instead proves to be quite easy for the reader to follow along. With exciting plot twists at every turn, Verne leaves you constantly wondering if our pros will EVER see daylight again. Simply a classic.
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LibraryThing member Narilka
Journey to the Center of the Earth is the grand adventure story of Professor Lidenbrock's quest to follow a the instructions in a cryptic text that describe how one can descend to the very center of the planet via volcanic tubes originating in an Icelandic volcano. He sets out with his nephew Axel
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and their hired guide Hans on an extraordinary journey through the bowels of the earth that has them encountering strange phenomena and many dangers. The story is told entirely from Axel's point of view as he writes journal of the trip.

This is my first time reading Jules Verne. It was a lot of fun and reminded me very much of the 1959 movie. The story starts off slow and spends a bit more time in the preparation than on the journey than I'd like. I wish there had been more time spent deep within the earth and the discoveries there. Axel is quite over dramatic and probably should never have gone along with his uncle. The science in the story is incredibly out dated so you have to unplug that part of the brain to enjoy the adventure.

I listened to the audio book narrated by Tim Curry. His performance is top notch and fits the work beautifully. I love the emotion he's able to give the characters.
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LibraryThing member Davidgnp
I remember being entirely engrossed in this book when I read it as an eleven-year-old boy, feeling I was in those subterranean tunnels and passages with the travellers. Recently I downloaded the Malleson translation onto my Kindle (free from Project Gutenberg) to explore whether the story still has
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the capacity to engage the adult as it had the child.

The simple answer is, yes it does, and in some ways I may have reaped more from the experience this time around, because I appreciated the skill in the characterisation as well as Verne's ability to take us along with them on the adventure. The three main characters - Axel, the young narrator, his eccentric and obsessed uncle Professor Liedenbrock, and their taciturn Icelandic guide Hans - make wonderful travelling companions for the reader. We are sucked along in the whirlwind of the Professor's passion experiencing, like Axel, that heady mix of curiosity and trepidation, relying for our safety on Hans, one of the most steadfast silent heroes in literature.

Of course the scientific arguments that Verne presents through the arguments between Axel and the Professor sometimes border on the absurd, and the sights we come across - including an underground ocean, living dinosaurs and a twelve foot humanoid - are fantastic indeed but there is just enough true science to persuade us to leave our disbelief at the entrance to the volcano.

Jules Verne was a true pioneer of the science fiction genre. Many lesser writers have followed in his footsteps; but literature is a sustainable magic for readers, and it's our delight that we can still make the journey with the original master.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
Professor Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, descend into Iceland's Snæfellsjökull volcano in an attempt to reach the center of the earth. This classic adventure tales is obviously aged, but doesn't feel dated at all; it feels as if someone contemporary wrote an adventure
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story in an old style - the storyline is exciting enough and has a "new" feel to it. Great story, recommended for all.
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LibraryThing member elliepotten
Everyone knows the basic premise of Journey to the Centre of the Earth - but like so many novels that have made their way into the public consciousness (Frankenstein, anyone?) it's still well worth reading the original, because they're never quite what you think! Like a game of Chinese Whispers,
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things get so distorted and simplified along the way that nothing beats going back to the source...

As most of you will already know, the novel pretty much does what it says on the tin; it begins with Professor Lidenbrock, a geologist, scientist and all-round intellectual (the book calls him a savant)*, finding an ancient piece of parchment, inscribed in code, left in a book by the Icelandic explorer Arne Saknussemm. When he finally deciphers the code, he is astonished to find that the parchment contains the precise location of the starting point of a journey to the centre of the earth. His interest piqued, the eccentric professor immediately sets out for Iceland, dragging his long-suffering nephew with him. There he hires a guide, ascends Mount Sneffels, and determinedly follows Saknessumm's footsteps down into the bowels of the earth...

I made that sound like the start of the story, right? Indeed, the blurb of my Penguin Popular Classics edition states that "Their journey... begins on the summit of a volcano..." Well, yes, but what it DOESN'T mention is that 100 pages into the 250-page book, they are only just reaching the crater that marks the real start of their adventure. This is not a novel that plunges you head-first into action and excitement; it takes a LONG time to get going, and nearly half the book is taken up by the description of the trip to - and across - Iceland. I couldn't help but think that if this was a modern novel, it would probably have been returned to the author with 'PACING!!!' scrawled across it in red ink...

Fortunately the pace soon picks up once the descent begins, and from that point onwards, the novel becomes a rip-roaring tale, crammed with drama and peril, excitement and discovery, all narrated by young Axel and sprinkled with scientific intrigue. It must be said that Verne doesn't always wear his science lightly - at times his novel reads more like a scientific-minded vintage travelogue - but then another dramatic event will occur, or another wonder will be uncovered, and the reader is captivated all over again. Not that the scientific elements are dull, particularly - in fact, Axel can become quite poetic about his pet subject, and some of the historical details are fascinating - but there is a liberal sprinkling of Latin names and geological jargon that requires a little care and concentration to grasp.

I think it was probably the three main characters themselves that made the novel for me (that, and the incredible prehistoric cavern with its glowing light and subterranean sea). While Axel is probably the weakest of the characters - he reminded me rather unfortunately of Fanny Price, constantly keeling over or going into a blind panic even as his middle-aged uncle strode calmly on - he has a gently wry sense of humour and describes his companions very astutely. He paints a wonderful picture of his uncle as the archetypal eccentric genius: determined, short-tempered, single-minded and completely ignorant of his own flaws. Their hulking guide Hans, in contrast, is always calm, extremely skilled and capable, strong and unshakeable; he is their rock and their saviour on many occasions, like some kind of Nordic Superman. It made me smile when Axel described his eyes as 'dreamy blue' - the hero-worship, the sheer awe with which he reveres him definitely borders on a man-crush at times!

Would I recommend reading this book? Well, yes, of course - it is a classic adventure story, and as I said before, it has worked its way into the public consciousness to such an extent that it really deserves to be enjoyed in its own right. It is not a fast-paced thriller, but it is one of the most famous fictional journeys in literature; it occasionally wears its scientific background heavily, but read in the right spirit is crammed with interesting nuggets of information; its narrating character is not the most witty or memorable of men, but he describes his surroundings beautifully. I'm not sure yet whether it's going to be a keeper for me, but I AM glad to have honoured my childhood love for Verne's imagination and read the original at last!
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LibraryThing member Tomwrites
In my opinion, far and away the best book Verne ever wrote and one of the best sci-fi books ever written. I own several copies, including Heritage Press and Folio Society. If I read French, I'd try to own a first edition.
LibraryThing member cwflatt
Classic science fiction.
LibraryThing member defrog
Not quite what I was expecting – I’m more familiar with the souped up Disney version, though I can’t say I was surprised to find out there’s no singing, no ducks and no chix in the original. It’s all right – I’ve never read Verne before, and he keeps the story moving, even though the
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science gets a little tedious. Also, it’s a little hard to believe you could actually walk all that way. And the ending requires some serious disbelief suspension. Still, I can see why it’s still in print.
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LibraryThing member hazzabamboo
Enjoyable, if a little too long

Verne was famous as a populariser of science, and it's easy to see why. The intellectual content is well-judged, softened by entertainment – it’s the journey narrative that can be a little plodding, as can his exposition, with too much spare description and
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repetition. Verne is good at dialogue and characters though, with a timely injection of humour now and then.
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LibraryThing member fillechaude
I guess I've been spoiled by modern fast-paced writing. While I did enjoy this book, and it had some great parts, I found a lot of it to be time-killing "filler" type material. Was it really necessary to take 90 pages to actually descend into the earth? Not in my humble opinion.

The afterword by
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Nimoy was interesting, though.
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LibraryThing member TRHummer
Good bedtime reading for the 7 year old daughter and me. And it takes me waaaaay back: I loved Verne when I was 8 and 9 and 10. The plot of this book is preposterous, but so what?
LibraryThing member Prop2gether
I loved this book! I seriously cannot believe that I avoided Verne for decades because I found Wells somewhat plodding. Of course, I've seen the movies made of both authors' works, but it was the most recent (2008) version which piqued my interest. By following the story by telling a narrative
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which encompassed it, I was having so much fun that I decided to read--and what a trip! It's on my favorites list now.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is a re-read. It is a very good adventure, one of his best, maintaining a real sense of threat and suffocating claustrophobia under the ground. There are some internal inconsistencies in dates and timings which would probably not get past a modern editor. Good stuff.
LibraryThing member ScottSlaughter
Though exciting in spots it is essentially a primer on 19th century theistic evolution.
LibraryThing member andreablythe
Based on the discovery of a mysterious parchment detailing the entrance to the center of the earth, a passionate scientist drags his nephew to Iceland. There, with the help of their trusty Icelandic guide, they gain entry to travel deep into the earth,, where they have many great adventures
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including dangerous tunnels, an underground ocean, prehistoric creatures, and other natural hazards.

I have seen so many versions of Journey to the Center of the Earth from the good to the very, very bad. This book is so much better than all of them. Much of the book is just traveling through dark tunnels before they make their more outrageous discoveries (the movies seem to insist on adding more complications).

I had been worried that it was going to be dry like some books of the older style of prose, but i was pleasantly surprised. The narrative is entertaining throughout, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat, and often quite funny. I loved Professor Liedenbrock, whose wild passions often lead to humorous situations, as well as his more timid nephew Axel, who was not nearly as excited by the trip. I even enjoyed Hans, the silent and stoic guide.

This is a fun, entertaining adventure novel. I loved it, and am quite excited to read the rest of Verne's works.
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LibraryThing member mageThufer
It had been a long time from my first reading of this classic tale of adventure to just this past week and reading it again.
When compared to some other works by J. Verne, this early title is somewhat simplistic in its unfolding, however, I was still spellbound and was driven to explore beyond the
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next wall or read around the next subterranean sea.

If you like classic stories of exploration fiction, or you you like J. Verne; this is a must title in your library. Still a good read after all the years.
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Other editions




½ (2397 ratings; 3.7)
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