This classic science fiction novel was written in 1864 and spawned (or helped spawn) a belief of the Hollow Earth, but I’ll get back to that later. This period of exploration of unknown lands like Africa and the poles was in part the inspiration of the story. Another source of inspiration was a book by Charles Lyell’s Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man, a book published around the time science was changing the way we believed the beginning of the earth’s development occurred.
The story tells of a German Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel. They discover a code in an old book that leads them to believe that they can reach the center of the earth through a passage the starts in Iceland inside a volcano. While Axel is afraid of the decent, citing the scientific theories that spelled out the many ways the trip would end in tragedy, the professor is euphoric about the journey.
In Iceland they hire Hans Bjelke a eiderdown hunter to be their guide. The three men see many strange things while inside the earth including subterranean rivers, and seas, giant mushrooms, prehistoric beasts, petrified trees and a proto-human civilization.
The return trip is a rapid ascent through the magma shafts out onto the Island of Stromboli. From there they return to Hamburg to much fame.
The language is from another time and further helps bring the details to life. Several times the language itself made me smile, though others may find it difficult. Several translations were done incorrectly when the book first came out, and that affected the popularity of the work in the beginning. An interesting note is that in some copies the Professors name is Hardwigg and the nephew is called Harry.
This is the least accurate of Verne’s works as far as the scientific theories are concerned but is still popular never the less. In his works Verne anticipated flights into outer space, submarines, helicopters, air conditioning, guided missiles, and motion pictures long before they were developed. It is this ability to predict the changing technology that is partially responsible for the cult like status that his and other works created.
Many of his followers used the story like at religious tome along with other works, from this a Hollow Earth society grew. This theory was that there were entrances to the center of the earth at the poles. Inside the Earth is an internal star that we think is the sun, in fact we are not on the surface as we believe but are inside. This theory uses inner earth theories of many religions like Hell, Hades, and Sheol. The largest group was based in Florida founded by a man named Koreshan.