The Kip Brothers

Our rating: **

The English brig James Cook, under the command of Captain Gibson, carries out costal trading in the Pacific waters off the coast of New Zealand. Unbeknownst to the Captain, his bosun Flig Balt and a no-good sailor called Vin Mod are plotting a mutiny. Between the two of them, they manage to infiltrate the crew with ruffians who have agreed to help them murder Captian Gibson and anyone who sides with him. The would-be mutineers have the advantage until the James Cook picks up two Dutch castaways, Karl and Peter Kip. Angered by the Kip brothers’ interference, Flig and Vin decide to carry out their plan with one small modification: To pin the murder on the Kips. Trapped by a mound of evidence (provided by the wily Vin Mod), the Kip brothers are convicted and sentenced to hard labor for life in the penal colony of Port Arthur. Can Mr. Hawkins, the only friend the Kips have left, find some scrap of material proof that they are innocent?

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed in this one. It was easy to put down, and rather repetitive. Of course, it might be the translation, as it was originally written in French, but then Verne was French, so one would assume all his books were originally in French. The ending caught me by surprise. It was scientific, but strange-sounding to the point of improbability. There were sections about the history of some of the islands in that area, which might be interesting to anyone wanting to know the times they were discovered and by whom.

Around the World in Eighty Days

Our rating: *****

On October 2nd 1872, Phileas Fogg, an English gentlemen who lives a life of clock-like regularity, makes a 20,000 pound bet with his friends at the reform club that it is possible to travel around the world in eighty days. Phileas leaves at once, barely giving Passepartout, his valet, time to pack their bags. Everything seems fine, but soon Phileas Fogg is followed by a detective named Fix, who has reason to believe that Fogg is a bank robber. Will Phileas Fogg be able to win his wager? And will he be arrested by Fix? This is a classic Jules Verne with a surprising ending.

Great book! Phileas is so irritatingly calm that you may find yourself panicking more than usual just to make up for it. I have seen the movie starring David Niven and there are quite a few differences from the book. But, it still is enjoyable. (Can you guess what I’m going to say next?) Close! First I’m going to say that the ending surprised me (in a good way). Okay, now I’ll say it: Read this book! It’s one of Jules Verne’s best.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Our rating: ****

Harry’s uncle, Professor Von Hardwigg, discovers an ancient parchment, written in runic. On translating the note, they discover that the message from Arne Saknussemm, a famous geologist, says that the earth is hollow and if you descend into Mount Sneffells, an extinct volcano in Iceland, you will be able to travel to the center of the earth! The professor and Harry set off immediately and hire a guide named Hans. The three descend into the crater of Sneffells and into the center of the earth.

Jules Verne wrote a lot of great science fiction novels, and although his scientific facts are a bit off in this one, it is still worth reading. The beginning is a little slow, but once you get past it, there’s plenty of excitement and mystery. All science fiction fans should read Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The Mighty Orinoco

Our rating: ****

One of the biggest rivers in the South America: the mighty Orinoco. Or is it? MM. Miguel, Filipe, and Varinas can’t agree. Which river really is the Orinoco? After much debating, they decide the only way to find out is to take a trip and see for themselves. On the way, they meet Sergeant Martial, a retired military man, and his nephew, Jean de Kermor, who is searching for his long-lost father and has reason to believe that he’s somewhere down the Orinoco. Soon, their party is joined by an explorer and a botanist, Jacques Helloch and Germain Paterne, who have been assigned to an expedition of the Orinoco and its surrounding towns. Together they travel, encountering giant herds of turtles, electric eels, and an escaped convict.

When I first saw this book, I didn’t think I’d like it as much as some of Jules Verne’s other books, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a little slow in the middle, but it picks up again in time for a nice finish. The characters are well developed and the storyline is very interesting.

The Mysterious Island

Our rating: ****

The adventures of five men who escape from Richmond in a balloon during the war of the Secession. Northern Captain Cyrus Harding, an engineer, Gideon Spilett, a reporter, Neb, the freed slave of Cyrus Harding, Pencroft, a sailor, and a young man named Herbert. After traveling through a hurricane, they are stranded on an island with only two watches and a notebook between them. No matter the difficulty, they find some way to succeed, even to the point of making nitro-glycerin and a telegraph system for the island! But a mystery seems to follow them, as strange and unexplained help comes to them when they’re in any dire need. Anything from attacks by pirates to an insane castaway, this book is worth reading.

This is a really neat book with a very dramatic ending. Well, almost ending. (They explain what happened afterward) I recommend reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea first, for several reasons, one of which being it helps warm you up for the long scientific processes that are explained. I have to admit, I did a lot of quick skimming through the scientific parts. It’s hard to enjoy it if you don’t understand it. A quick reminder: Several of the facts and ideas in Jules Verne’s book are slightly outdated and replaced, but this is a fun book. Please read it, even for the sake of impressing yourself, because it’s 768 pages of adventure, science and Jules Verne.