The Mysterious Island is, in a sense, Jules Verne's sequel to his more famous book, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The book begins with a daring POW camp escape by several clever people via Hot Air balloon. From there, they wind up on a deserted island, with approximately no possessions but their wits (a completely original theme). They, over the course of the story, explore the island, naming it Lincoln Island and make it an honorary state; discover their position on the map-surprisingly, it's unknown; build a giant cave-house; find a pet monkey; adopt a monkey; rescue a castaway; defeat pirates; and discover the mysterious Captain Nemo. Oh yeah-they blow up the island, as well.

There is an interesting paradox in the Mysterious Island : the book begins with Yanks escaping a confederate fort during the Civil War. However, in the original book, the ship that the hero sailed on before joining with Nemo on the Nautilus was the Abraham Lincon, and the story began in 1866. Yet, the characters know who Captain Nemo is. Indeed, Nemo is a combination of a cameo and a Deus Ex Machina, hiding from our heroes while saving them with medicine and guns, and then telling them of the fate of the island: it is volcanic, water is eating away at the core, and when the water meets the lava, it will all turn to steam and destroy the island (paging ILM).

If you do read the book (personally, I thought it was OK, but haven't read it for years), you'll notice a good deal of crap, as well as some interesting foresight. One character talks about, once coal is done with, powering manufacturing plants with water, but later talks about the moon being a dead star and the earth cooling down.

Should you read this book? Maybe. Get it at a library, though, and just start it. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it’s not the worst by any means.

This book caught a lot of flack in its day from various critics. One of their chief complaints was, "How can all these animals and environments from so many geographically diverse areas of the world come together on one tiny island?" and the like. Thoughtful people who read this book also tend to notice, and become incredulous.

They are perfectly right, of course; the Mysterious Island cannot possibly exist! Jules Verne might as well have placed penguins and polar bears there to mingle and frolic happily. He was fully aware of this; it was intentional.

The Island is a symbol for the Earth, and the settlers a symbol for Humanity. Verne was first and foremost one thing: a believer in Science, Invention and Technology. This is a novel about human ingenuity conquering the world. Much as F. Scott Fitzgerald represents the Roaring Twenties to a T, Verne represents the spirit of 19th century European technological civilization, just coming into its own. It is no accident that almost all of his main novels were intimately connected with invention: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to the Moon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, etc. ad nauseam.

That having been said, I enjoy this novel for its very specific and exacting descriptions of each of the settlers' innovations. They encounter a challenge, they fix it using the remaining implements of civilization and the vast resources of the island. It makes me feel like the world really can be conquered with tame onagers and a few sheets of zinc.

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