I’ve been meaning to read Jules Verne for quite a while now, so when I saw that Audible had Journey to the Center of the Earth available, the movie adaptation of which I remember liking as a child, and it was narrated by the legendary Tim Curry, I knew I had to have it.
At first the story was very reminiscent of The Lost World (or the other way around I supposed, but I read The Lost World first). They both begin with a slightly mad older scientist setting off on a journey and bringing along the younger narrator of the story, in this case it was Professor Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel. In both novels, the younger man justifies his dangerous involvement with the knowledge that it will impress the girl he wants to marry on his return. They even both name a newly discovered landmark after their girl back home. The travelers also come across prehistoric creatures in both novels. I imagine Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was influenced by Jules Verne when he turned his attention to his adventure novels.
The story begins in Hamburg. Professor Lidenbrock is excited to receive an old manuscript that has just been delivered to him. Upon opening it, he finds a note written in cryptic script. Eventually they discover that it’s a letter from an ancient Icelandic alchemist instructing anyone who wishes to travel to the centre of the earth to follow a passage into Snæfell, an inactive volcano on the west coast of Iceland. The kicker is that they have to be there at the end of June, and the weather needs to be clear, as the volcano will cast a shadow down on the opening – a trope that many stories, from The Hobbit to Raiders of the Lost Ark, have used since. And many before, I assume.
They then begin their descent, and for a while it reads more like a modern adventure travelogue than a science fiction novel. It’s somewhat slowly paced but still interesting, focusing more on the hardships of travel than anything supernatural, although things do get a bit wacky near the very end.
Tim Curry’s narration was fantastic. He’s at his best when he’s reading the dialogue of an exasperated character. It had me laughing out while listening on a number of occasions. I listened to his narration of A Christmas Carol last winter as well, which was also great. I’d listen to him narrate anything.
My first Jules Verne novel, and I can see myself reading a lot more of these. I love old adventure novels and that whole Lost World genre, so this was right up my alley.