A stand-alone science fiction book.

Original name: Voyage au centre de la Terre
Publication year: 1864
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1987
Finnish publisher: WSOY
Page count for the Finnish translation: 191
Translator: Pentti Kähkönen

Axel Lindenbrock is a young German man who lives with his uncle geologist Professor Lindebrock. The Professor finds a 300-year old manuscript written in Icelandic runes. Inside it is also a smaller paper which was written by Arne Saknussem who was an alchemist and an explorer. The paper is written in runes and different language which the Professor realizes is Latin. However, the message is also crypted. Axel is able to decipher the code, much to his annoyance, because it is Saknussem’s account of his journey to the center of the Earth. The Professor is immediately on fire with determination to go on the same journey and forces Axel to accompany with him. He takes with them a lot of equipment.

They travel to Iceland because Saknussem started his journey through the crater of an Icelandic jökull. Axel is very reluctant and fearful but follows his uncle, leaving behind Grauben, a German girl he loves. In Reyjavik, they hire a Danish-speaking eiderdown hunter Hans Bjelke as their guide to the crater and as their servant for the rest of the journey.

They see wondrous things below the surface.

The Professor is determined to the point of obsessive lunacy. He won’t listen any arguments to stop or return back. While he bases most of his arguments in science, he also makes assumptions about things he can’t possibility know, for example that there is going to be a lot of drinkable water underground so the small company don’t take much with them.

Axel is his counterpoint, always expecting trouble. Hans speaks as little as possible and is extremely loyal to the Professor, following him without question as long as his salary is paid. His skills save them a lot of times.

Axel is the narrator and he tells the story in past tense, although at one point he provides us with direct quotes from the diary he kept for a part of the journey.

This is a very good adventure novel where manly men go where no other man has gone before. We’re also told about the arguments that the scientific community at the time had about dinosaurs, what Earth’s is made of, and other things. Of course, we now know that some of the things that the Professor, and the scientific community of the time, speculated are wrong.

Unlike the other books I’ve read from him, this one contains clearly very imaginative things that the characters encounter below ground. I’ve read Burrough’s Pellucidar books and they were clearly inspired by this one.

The characters are archetypal but quite entertaining. I think I like this book more than the other Verne’s books I’ve read. However, the only female character is Graube, the Professor’s foster daughter, who laments that she can’t go because she’s a woman and all women are weak and useless on such a journey. So, her only role is to provide inspiration for Axel.

The Finnish translation is aimed at younger readers and so it includes maps and a small dictionary.

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