French original: Autour de la lune
Finnish translation: Maasta kuuhun
Publication year of the original: 1870
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1977
Finnish translator: Edwin Hagfors
Page count: 179 (in an omnibus of From Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon), illustrated
I didn’t much care for “From Earth to the Moon” but it ended in a cliffhanger so after I fortified myself with various comics and tie-in books, I finally picked up the sequel. Happily, it ended up being more to my taste.
In the previous book a huge projectile was launched towards the Moon with the intention of hitting the Moon. In the end, three men decided to get into the projectile: the Gun Club’s president Barbicane, his enemy Captain Nicholls, and an adventurous Frenchman Michel Ardan. They want to be the first Earth men on the Moon and establish contact with any humans living on the Moon. They bring with them food, two dogs, and various seeds to plant on the Moon. They are supposed to make the trip in five days.
During the voyage, they actively talk about what they are likely to find on the Moon and make observations. They even encounter a comet. However, they soon find out that something has gone wrong with their projected path and instead of landing on the Moon, they are going to just go around it, perhaps infinitely. Even so, they are determined to make observations and calculations rather than succumb to despair.
I felt that the book was less technical than the previous book which had a lot of details about building the huge gun, where the put it, who would finance it etc. The book still has a couple of chapters devoted to maths and the history of Moon knowledge. Still, I thought the pace was far faster than in the previous book and there was a lot of actual interaction between the characters. Of course, the cast of characters is pretty limited.
The book was written in 1870 so many of the details of space travel are wrong. For example, at one point the characters open one of their windows and are not blown into space or significantly chilled. In a less science oriented book this would have been less noticeable but here the “errors” (this is fiction after all) jump out.
The three men are archtypical of the time: adventurous, bold, rarely even nervous. They are more interested in scientific study than if they will survive the trip. Arden is more talkative and less knowledgeable than the others and I had a feeling that he’s there because it’s a convenient way to explain things to the readers, when Barbicane and Nicholls explain things to Arden. In fact, the Moon and the voyage itself are the main features of the book, not the characters.