Based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk, who survived alone for almost five years on an uninhabited island off the coast of Chile, The Mysterious Island is considered by many to be Jules Verne’s masterpiece.
“Wide-eyed mid-nineteenth-century humanistic optimism in a breezy, blissfully readable translation by Stump” (Kirkus Reviews), here is the enthralling tale of five men and a dog who land in a balloon on a faraway, fantastic island of bewildering goings-on and their struggle to survive as they uncover the island’s secret.
Public Domain (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
I was excited to see an audiobook of The Mysterious Island, one of my favorite novels by Jules Verne. Berny Clark does a good job narrating the book. I'd love to give it five stars, but unfortunately the producers decided to use a mediocre 19th-century translation that renames three of the characters and cuts some of the main points from a certain life story that forms the climax of the novel. (If you haven't read it before, I won't say anything more than that; just remember, when you get to this point, that Verne's original text is far more radical politically than what you're listening to.)
At least it's a mediocre translation and not a completely bungled one, unlike the "standard" version of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea or the "Hardwigg" version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. The story (apart from some of the political shading) is intact, and the story of this resolute band of escapees and their skin-of-their-teeth survival on the island has always been, for me, a compelling and gripping one. My three stars for the story are directed at the translation, not the original. I wish a different translation were used, but I'm glad to have it.
54 years old, blue collar worker, I like imported beer, when it is not hay fever season. Favorite authors; Card, King, Hobb, Koontz, Clarke, Iggulden, Silverberg, Michener, Krakauer
When you read something written in 1874, then you have to keep in mind, when it was written, the culture at the time and if Science Fiction, the knowledge at that time. There is no doubt in my mind that at the time this was written it was one of the best if not the best story you could obtain. Even reading it today as a 54 year old man, it brought back the wonder and the adventure I felt as a boy, going out and playing in the woods and pretending to be on a mysterious island. As a young boy the movie Mysterious Island was my favorite next to The Wizard of Oz.
The 60's movie and the book have very little in common. There are no giant birds, no girls, etc. If you buy the book, then you need to be ready for long sections, where they tell you step by step how to make gun powder, bricks, ovens, etc.
There is a lot that can be criticized about the book, which is fairly common for novels of the time period. The engineer is a perfect man, his knowledge is total, he is calm at all times, he is a great leader, etc. So many things just fall into place, such as one of them just happens to find a corn seed in the lining of his coat, one of them mentions they could really use a beast of burden and the next day two show up at there doorstep, everything they make or attempt comes out perfect, never a mistake. The ending is a super cop out of a miracle. It also bothers me that there are no women, that of these five men, none are married, don't seem to have families and never once miss anyone from home. Anytime someone is given up for dead, you can expect some miracle to bring them back to life. I believe this to be typical of 19th century adventure novels.
The book has a whole is very interesting, there are some really good parts, some intense parts and as long as you don't expect it to compete with modern writing then it is an enjoyable read.
The narrator was good for this type of book, I am not sure I would want him to read something which involved lots of emotion.
Maybe it's the translation: but I doubt it. The political correctness problems of this classic novel are so unfashionable now that I can only remind listeners that it's French PC issues, not American (despite the fact that the characters are ostensibly American from the Civil War). The French, of course, had African colonies at this time. The black servant Ned is described incessantly in terms far more condescending than those used for the dog belonging to the castaways. The reader sounds as if he is soldiering on during all this, embarassed but trying manfully to give value for wages.
Basically it's a shipwreck story and how they made do, like Swiss Family Robinson or Robinson Crusoe, both of which Verne references. Captain Nemo is there -- it's his home island -- and gives an occasional helpful hand to the survivors of the balloon's wild runaway during a hurricane as the passengers escape a Southern prisoner-of-war camp during the American Civil War. Verne's original slant was to leave the marooned men with almost nothing at all to work with, as opposed to the copious supplies both the other fictional shipwrecks could salvage. They have to depend instead on The Engineer, an august being who owns the servant, the dog, and an Olympian ability to make quite a lot out of nothing, in a celebration of 19th century science.
I grew up reading Verne, 20,000 Leagues being an early favorite, but unfortunately, as important a figure as he may be in literature and scifi history, I don't think his writing holds up. I've revisited Verne a few times over recent years and though I love Nemo etc. I can't enjoy him now. His novels are, and it pains me to say it, better in an abridged version. This one in particular just goes on far too long and slowly and belabors events. And the narrator didn't help either, very slow and monotonous. I finished it, but I cheated and put the playback speed up to 2x.
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