Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Steam Driven Scientific Romances

'Scientific Romances' that's what these kind of stories used to be called back in the Victorian & Edwardian eras, before somebody came up with the term 'Science Fiction' - and I've just completed a double bill of the best.

HG Wells - "The First Men in the Moon" [1901] - Prof. Cavor a scientific genius invents a gravity-defying substance, which he calls Cavorite, and together with his fortune-seeking friend Bedford, they build a sphere and fly to the Moon. Here they discover a hostile lunar race of Selenites, living in caverns and tunnels, deep below the surface, with whom they are forced to do battle for their own survival, or so it seems. On the surface this appears as a rollicking action adventure yarn, but it also addresses a lot of Well's important recurring themes such as empire building and war.

Jules Verne - "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" [1864], most people are familiar with this story through the numerous film versions, but this original book is head and shoulders above all of them. Professor Lindenbrock, his nephew and the tales narrator Axel, their guide Hans follow clues from an ancient manuscript, which will take them deep into the bowels of the Earth. From the crater of Snaefellsjokull volcano in Iceland, they make their way through caves & tunnels, across underground seas, on a quest for the very centre of the planet - before being spewed out again by Mount Etna, thousands of miles away in Sicily.

It was a strange co-incidence, but the day after finishing this book, there was a travel article in the Sydney Morning Herald, where one of it's writers, Claire Smith, had attempted to follow Lindenbrock's fictional journey from Reykjavic around the harsh coastline of north-east Iceland to the Snaefells volcano. She says that although Verne had never been to Iceland, the route was pretty much as he had described it, except the crater of the volcano was actually buried under 250m of solid ice, and there is a luxury, boutique hotel on top of the mountain.

Interest in Jules Verne's seminal works, never seems to wane even after 120 / 130 years, with yet another film version of "Around The World in 80 Days" on current cinema release.

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