French original: De la Terre à la Lune
Finnish translation: Maasta kuuhun
Publication year of the original: 1865
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1958
Finnish translator: Edwin Hagfors
Page count: 197
My deep dark secret on the SF front: I haven’t read Verne before. Ever since I saw Back to the Future III I’ve wanted to but never had the real urge until now. Sadly, I was somewhat disappointed.
First off, this isn’t an adventure story. The book tells, in a humorous tone, about a bunch of men who build a really big gun with the intent of shooting it to the Moon. The book is also very much “tell not show”. When there’s a chance of doing an info dump, Verne does it all the way. There’s a chapter devoted to info dump about the Moon and the various superstitions about it, another chapter devoted the how much money each country sent to the endeavor, and even a chapter about the geographical differences between Texas and Florida. When characters are introduced, Verne tells about each of them at length down to their cranial dimensions instead of showing their behavior. The characters, all male, are larger than life and inspire action and confidence in their fellow males.
The Gun Club consists mostly of men who had lost a limb or two to the great war machines but they still want to improve the guns. However, to their disappointment, the world has come to a peaceful period without much of a chance of a major war. During this bleak time the Club’s president, Imprey Barbicane, thinks up the idea to shoot at the moon. This idea energizes not only the members of the Club the whole America, and shortly the whole world. Barbicane himself designs the enormous cannon and equally huge projectile. The whole America follows the undertaking.
In addition to the brilliant and charismatic scientist Barbicane, the book has few other characters: T. J. Maston is the Club’s secretary and Barbicane’s loyal follower, Captain Nicholls is Barbicane’s bitter rival (being a metal armor designer while Barbicane designs guns), and the French Michel Ardan who is the first to want to fly to the Moon.
After halfway through the novel, the idea is introduced that people might want to ride in the projectile. First the idea is jeered as impossible but in the end three men, and two dogs, climb into the projectile.
Some of the dialog in the book, if not most of it, is lecturing rather than actually dialog. People lecture to each other about the Moon and even deduce that there must be air on it. The three astronauts even bring seeds and saplings with them to plant them on the Moon.
The book also ends in a cliffhanger.
Sadly, to me this book hadn’t aged well but it could also be Verne’s style which seems to pay meticulous attention to details. I’ve read a bunch of books from H. G. Wells which felt much more modern. Dracula and Frankenstein from the same era were also more enjoyable.