first published in 1874
*** The Plot ***
In the midst of the American Civil War (in the early 1860s) several Northerners are trapped in a Southern-held city. During a ferocious storm they escape the city by flying out on a stolen hot air balloon belonging to the Confederate Army. The storm does not abate however, and they are swept far out to sea. They continue to travel for many, many miles, finally crash landing on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean. Using only their ingenuity and resources they find on the island they create a very civilized home for themselves, complete with (almost) all the modern conveniences. The island seems to be a perfect - albeit lonely - home for the five men. But all is not exactly well. Due to some rather strange occurrences the men become convinced that they are not alone on the island ...
*** My Thoughts ***
After reading the translator's note (which I wrote about here) at the beginning of this book I just knew I was going to love it and I was right. This is truly a classic adventure story. Interestingly, it was based on the same true story that inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe.
The book is definitely plot-driven. There is virtually no character development. In fact the characters are all very stereotypical. I won't describe them all but suffice it to say that if there was stereotype to be used, Verne used it. Normally this would be a turn-off for me and I will admit that at times it bothered me (like in his description of Neb, the loyal and superstitious ex-slave-turned-servant) but there was so much else to love in this book that I didn't let it get to me.
This book is very idealistic in it's way. It stresses the "heartiness" of men, their "boundless ability" and the idea of taming the wilderness to suit humanity. Again there is a lot to object to (for example their efforts to rid the island of specific animals) but here there is also lots to admire. The fact that their normal education gave them all they needed to not only survive but thrive on their island is fascinating to me!
The translator's note I mentioned above did have one drawback: it gave away the mystery behind the strange events on the island. It didn't ruin the book for me though. In fact, it made me even more excited to read it! AND there was a plot twist at the very end that I totally didn't see coming, so that was cool.
Oh, and if you love exclamation points you'll love reading this book! I felt like there was always something to be excited about! And Verne didn't want you to miss it! So he used exclamation points a lot! I really mean a LOT! (That's what it was like to read this book. Or should I say, !!!)
*** How This Relates to the TV Show "Lost" ***
I picked this book to read as part of the Lost Challenge, which is based on the TV show Lost. All the books on the list were referenced in some way on the show. In this case, the creators of the show credit The Mysterious Island as the chief inspiration for the show.
Here are the things that I found important/interesting in relation to the show:
- there is something going on with this island that the survivors have no control over and don't understand
- that something is very powerful
- when the survivors uncover the source of the mystery it is not at all what they expected
Here's a link other references to this book in Lost.
*** As an Aside ***
I'm one of those people who always reads every single page of a book, including glossaries and appendices. So it's no surprise that I read the page describing the typeface used in the book. What IS surprising is that I recognized the company mentioned there. It's a German company called Stempel and I learned about it in that font film I watched recently. Yeah! for learning something new!