Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the incredible adventure of young student of mineralogy Axel, being compelled to voyage on a perilous undertaking through an (extinct?) Icelandic volcano. Unable to resist the iron will of Uncle Liedenbrock, Axel believes he faces the prospect of a lunatic crusade.
Professor Otto Liedenbrock: one might say he is the stereotypical mad professor, but in many ways he is one of a kind. To his critical nephew Axel, who suffered his living habits, he is an impatient man, egocentric in his thoughts, and prone to bouts of fury. However, I saw many endearing personality traits in him. An eminent scientific savant certainly, who is eccentric, bold, and has wit. I respected the Professor’s drive to achieve great things, for recognition and personal accomplishment. I also pitied the fact that his insular life and single-minded focus, courage, and determination made him blind to Axel’s feelings. To feel fulfilled in life, intellectual challenges and forcing himself to undergo expeditions of discovery, were aspects not touched upon in the novel, but which made me empathise with him.
At 20 per cent through the novel, Axel’s desperate attempts to thwart his Uncle’s surging enthusiasm and ambition, as well as his critical view of him, made for hilarious reading. I could just visualise the Professor racing like a bull down staircases and through doors, on to tackle the next challenge. In many passages, it highlighted how imperfect the Professor was, because he forgot things like what he has cooking. And though the Professor spent hours studying a Runic manuscript, Axel discovered the secret quite by accident. Sometimes I felt Axel was too critical, when he has to point out his Uncle’s flaws and imperfections to us so that we may see the Professor as human or acceptable. I’m not sure whether to blame the author for this.
From 20 to 45 per cent much description does burden the reader’s enjoyment. I urge the reader to persist, for after 45 per cent, the adventure really gets going, and the description puts the environment into perspective with a knowledgeable and scientific setting. Sometimes the science was a bit too much for the unacquainted reader, perhaps also because many of the terms would be academic to a Victorian scientist, but the dictionary helped with the basics. On a more accurate scale I would have rated this novel 9/10.
The personalities were powerfully constructed, and I felt I got to know them almost instinctively, even if they both did manage to surprise me numerous times during the course of the novel. Mostly, this was an effortless and rewarding read, filled with humour, colour, imagination, and wonder! The discoveries were stimulating, and reached beyond the scientific to deliver a panoramic timeless experience.
Reviewed by Alex James