The SFFaudio Podcast #376 – Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa Bessada talk about Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne.
Talked about on today’s show:
title variations, they don’t go to the center of the Earth, Arne Saknussemm, Lit2Go, the Tim Curry narration, how did the paperwork get out of the Earth?, he was too specific, the knife, what happened to Arne Saknussemm?, barometer, manometer, dead servants, taciturn servants, would you like some bacon cooked on the lava (magma), overdosing on adaptations, comic adaptations, the 2008 Brendan Fraser version (3D movie), fluffy, the nephew-uncle dynamic, a page turner, adding a female expeditionary member, inspiration vs. adaptation, inspired by this book, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the same setup, irascible professors, going for a girl, a forerunner (a person who went before), Maplewhite vs. Saknussemm, dinosaurs, underground journey, subterranean, fun, huge science expositions, Around The World In Eighty Days, the Fantastic Voyages (or Journeys) series, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Five Weeks In A Balloon, Jules Verne wrote 66 novels!, one of the things he’s doing, visit every place in the world and characterize every nation, Germans and Icelanders and Danes, national personalities, everyone is a cartoon, “stereotype”, a crazy uncle, a light comedy, science vs. adventure, Verne takes us on tours, touring Copenhagen, vicarious travel, adventurous passion, not to poop all over this book, At The Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this book is missing a 12-foot giantess cave-girl girlfriend, standing on the ceiling of the basement, a vast hollow sphere, Pluto and Porcupine (the roman equivalent of Persephone), Jules Verne’s spelling of Edgar Allan Poe (he called him Edgard Allan Poe), referencing everything, The Sphinx In The Ice, Verne was Poe’s #1 fan, a beautiful tradition, The Green Girl by Jack Williamson, biological phases compared to geological phases, looking at the stars and the earth you’re looking backward in time, the science, the original french version of this book was in 1864, 10 years later the relationship with Germany is fundamentally different, the mechanistic world, 10 years made a hell of a difference, this is a very international book, the humor, I was in love with her, “you could say I adored her (if any such word exists in the German language)”, he’s right about us, Verne is very sly, just like the professor, languages, Verne’s dad tried to make him a lawyer, trying not to be provincial, Virgil and Homer and Shakespeare, “You monument to ignorance”, a zinger in every chapter, “great as it is that asylum is it is not big enough to contain all of Professor Lidenbrock’s madness”, you have no vision, “I care nothing about seeing magnificent spectacles”, a walking tour of Copenhagen, crawling up the stairs, Axel’s maturity (or lack thereof), the names, Henry vs. Axel, Lidenbrock vs. Hardwigg, the different translations [the Professor’s name is a pun], a secret history, the Saknussemm document becomes the Jules Verne novel in the 2008 movie, the 1959 movie makes the professor Scottish, translations and adaptations to make it more relevant for the audience, Gretchen -> Grauben -> Gretel, bad translations, learning about eiderdown and eiderdown hunters, stealing nest fluff, the science is pretty damn good, you can’t have an adventure to the center of the Earth if the Earth’s center is hot, EVIDENCE!, “everyone is laughing at me, here’s a pterodactyl”, “science is composed of errors, but errors that are right to make”, the ball-lightning, St. Elmo’s fire, the compass problems, almost realistic, Stromboli was Tolkien’s model for Mount Doom, we will not tell them how we actually got here, they said they were shipwrecked (and it is kind of true), dense with humour, history, architecture, an enduring classic, Hans was the opposite of the uncle, characters exchanging personalities, a process of maturation, an inveterate coward and then he craters, the seeds of what he will become, Axel will become like his uncles when he grows older, Verne shows a character’s worst and best sides, a giant fur covered creature pounding his chest -> it’s King Kong!, 16 foot giant bones discovered, a skull the size of a Volkswagen, a moral panic, a real newspaper article, Jesse does an Icelandic accent, The Odyssey, like Professor Challenger, The Poison Belt, aliens, Hans has to get paid every Sunday, Icelandic life is hard, Icelanders are Eskimos without the benefits of being Eskimos, Master, Verne’s racism is a sympathetic racism, Conan Doyle’s internationalism is very different, Burroughs’s characterization, what Verne is doing is cool, I’m not usually the persons who says: “You know what this needs? More romance”, mineralogists, all good characterization, Conan Doyle’s cute cynicism, Burroughs’s hero characters find girls and have them lay some eggs, H. Rider Haggard’s lost worlds were in Africa, adventure types, She!, The People Of The Mist, a White Goddess among the Zulu people, this is sort of Vernianian: science, history, literature and reveling in that knowledge, The Mysterious Island, a parody meme -> Mysterious Island, Nellie Bly, pretending to be insane to see what life in an asylum is like, Librivox, what it’s like to live in Mexico, back when newspapers paid reporters to investigate things, BBC, gravity in the center of the Earth would pull you in every direction, BBC Radio 4: In Our Time on the Earth’s core, biology is taught wrong, there names are what they do, telling rocks apart at a glance, smell, sound, taste, rocks can be tested it with your body, on the final exam in geology they give you a tray full of rocks, the ferrous iron taste of the water, Hans brock water, flood that whole compartment (luckily it was the size of the Earth), draining the Mediterranean, Verne is the second most translated author in the world, looking at it from our perspective today, Ben Hur, Lew Wallace, do your own abridging.
Posted by Jesse Willis
This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (7 hours 29 minutes) comes to us courtesy of Lit2Go, a great website offering individual chapter MP3s and streaming audio (all available HERE).
PLEASE NOTE: One six minute segment of the audiobook (in chapter 40) was missing but I have seamlessly edited in the missing section from a LibriVox narration that used the same translation.
Journey To The Center Of The Earth was first published in French in 1864 and in English in 1871.
The next SFFaudio Podcast will feature our discussion of it!
Posted by Jesse Willis
First published in the May 1930 issue of Weird Tales. Illustration by Boris Dolgov.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
extravaganza vs. jamboree vs. hootenanny, the absent article, The Tenth Victim, Is That What People Do? The Selected Stories Of Robert Sheckley, “one man’s poison is another man’s meat”, writing with your mind, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Gregg has been on many bloody campaigns with his typewriter, Scott loves the pen and notebook, Jesse uses a camera, whiteboard technologies, our podcast about FOOD, Douglas Adams, “Sheckley is not as vaudevillian as Adams”, Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, The Pirate Planet, a building shaped like a doughnut, “food-worthy”, c-rations vs. sea rations, “fill all your stomachs and fill them right”, Hellman and Casker, how do you determine food from non-food, chemists have horribly burnt tongues, Geology exams require the use of tongues, giggling food, drinking vs. being drunk, short stories should throw off sparks, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Untouched By Human Hands was sixty years ahead of its time, Laurel And Hardy vs. Gilligan’s Island, the SyFy channel is sixty years behind the times, Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson |READ OUR REVIEW|, Robert A. Heinlein, copyright, Mickey Mouse vs. Mighty Mouse, keeping murder alive, Sheckley’s late career, Stanton Frelaine = Stand In the Free Lane?, The Most Dangerous Game, Richard Connell, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Lifeboat Mutiny by Robert Sheckley, The Leech, Warrior Race, Watchbird, La Decima Vittima, Marcello Mastroianni, New York, World War IV, World War VI, feminism, Mindswap, the economy in Seventh Victim, wordlbuilding in a short story, Spotters, Morger, the Tens Club, a game where people kill people, “there is no such thing as human rights”, are these rights not self-evident?, thou shalt not kill/murder, “the age of the half-believer”, Catholicism vs. protestantism, cherry-picking the beliefs from the old and new testament, the three legs of the scientific method (rational, empirical, scholastic), fads, should we require a degree in science to wear a lab-coat?, cargo cults, philosophy, the Emotional Catharsis Bureau, “damn women”, “gladiatorial events complete with blood and thunder”, does a desire to murder start wars?, Gregg thinks we are vehicles for genes, Professor Eric. S. Rabkin, Genesis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is aggressiveness (or competition) a requirement to move on, the Space Race, the architects of tech during WWII, Michael Faraday isn’t getting any royalties, copyright vs. copyfight, seek technology got a patent!, For Us The Living: A Comedy Of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein, guaranteed minimum income, William Shakespeare, West Side Story, “there are only seven stories [basic plots]”, “we stray”, Frelaine’s reaction to the suicidal Victim, the purpose of catharsis, the deep unsatisfaction of an unfinished play, an unrequited kill, how many [TV] series are canceled before their plots unfold? (too many), Dexter vs. Babylon 5 vs. Lost, Game Of Thrones, Drive, The Wire is deeply unsatisfying every episode, ambivalent storytelling, “you can’t fix this neighborhood, move.”, The Corner, Firefly and Serenity, “he had a plan”, how to watch Babylon 5, what is the message of Seventh Victim, X-Minus One, Battlefield 2, do violent video games (and computer games) reduce violence?, Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, Killer: The Game Of Assassination, Gregg wants it with collateral damage.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Journey to the Center of the Earth
By Jules Verne; Read by Simon Prebble
7 CDs – 7.5 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Classic / Geology / Dinosaurs /
In listening to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, I was struck by how much modern films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and National Treasure owe to this book. Although it was written way back in 1864, while the War Between the States was in full swing and the earth was a very different place, in many ways its thoroughly modern, at home alongside recent sci-fi novels like John Crichton’s Jurassic Park.
In summary, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a fast-paced and lively pseudo science/exploration story that manages to be mostly interesting and entertaining. Unfortunately, it also crosses over into unbelievable territory about three-quarters of the way through and ends with a classic deux-ex-machina, but I found I can live with it.
Journey to the Center of the Earth takes aim at the theory that the earth grows hotter the nearer that you travel to its center. Verne posits the idea that the earth’s core is inhabitable and houses massive cavities, caverns so huge that you cannot see their roof. At its center is a sea large enough that you can travel across its and lose sight of land all around. Science has of course since proven this idea impossible, but it makes for a fun story if you divorce it from reality.
Journey to the Center of Earth has a compelling opening that reminded me of The DaVinci Code–Professor Liedenbrock and his nephew Axel, the heroes of the story, find a coded note written in runes within the pages of an Icelandic saga. They puzzle through it and discover that it is a note written by Arne Saknussemm describing a passage he has found to the center of the earth. The opening is located in the interior of a dormant volcano in Iceland. Liedenbrock and Axel recruit an Icelandic guide and the three men embark on their journey.
I found Verne’s descriptions of overland and sea travel to Iceland interesting, and the first scenes of the descent fascinating. Verne vividly portrays the vast depths and terrifying downward drops of the volcano draft, and creates excitement and dread in two sequences in which Axel gets lost in the inky blackness and the three men nearly die of thirst.
Unfortunately I thought that the tale started to unravel once the men near the earth’s center, which contains ice age creatures, dinosaurs, and even early men. If the story didn’t literally jump a shark it certainly started to lose me once Liedenbrock and Axel’s small boat passes very nearly over an Ichthyosaurus. I was also puzzled with the abrupt ending–Liedenbrock and Axel gain great fame from their expedition, while others treat their claims with skepticism. But, inexplicably, no one ever bothers to re-trace their footsteps and verify their claims.
Still, you could do worse than pass the time by giving it the book a listen. It’s also skillfully read by English-accented, professorial-sounding narrator Simon Prebble.
Posted by Brian Murphy
Journey to the Center of the Earth
By Jules Verne, performed by a full cast
2 Tapes, Approx. 2 hours – [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Themes: / Science fiction / Adventure / Exploration / Geology /
One should not drink from the same well of audio books in rapid succession. I recently listened to Alien Voices’ The First Men in the Moon, and found this one just a little too similar for my liking. The main characters in both consist of a crusty professor and a younger, more energetic helper; in both cases the professor is voiced by Leonard Nimoy and the younger man by John DeLancie; and in both cases the two men go off to explore some unknown world and discover amazing adventures.
This book suffers in the comparison not just because it came second, but because it isn’t quite as good. The plot involves a wild trip, but one that brings the characters into contact with only monsters and forces of nature, not other intelligences; whereas The First Men in the Moon brings us into an alien society that has chilling implications for our own. The soundscapes of this book are neither as rich nor as immediately immersive as the first, and the characters are not played that distinctly different. Leonard Nimoy is good, but he’s just so darned good-natured that his character only seems foul tempered by others’ report. His heart isn’t really in it, and Herr Doktor Liedenbrock comes off no less pleasant than the buzzing Professor Caver. And John DeLancie’s true talent comes in portraying morally suspect characters. Here, his sweet Axel, the Doctor’s nephew, never quite rings true.
Not to say either man does a bad job, or that the sound isn’t excellent, or even that the adaptation doesn’t rip right along and offer plenty of adventure, quaint as the concepts are. But it just doesn’t grab you in the gut, it doesn’t feel inevitable, and it doesn’t offer any fresh insight into the human condition. In short, it doesn’t bring a classic story from the dawn of science fiction into our living presence, and as such, it really isn’t worth the time. Based on my previous exposure, I think it would be a mistake to write off other Alien Voices titles, but I wouldn’t break any bones rushing out to get hold of this one.
Posted by Kurt Dietz