Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Recommended for: Ages 13 and up (interest level)
Jules Verne's perennially popular Journey to the Center of the Earth begins when irascible but dedicated mineralogy professor Otto Lidenbrock finds a centuries-old parchment inside an even older book. His nephew Axel decodes it, and discovers instructions on how to get to the center of the Earth: "Go down into the crater of Snaefells Yocul," an extinct Icelandic volcano. As they descend, the explorers also travel backwards to the past, through layers of human history and geologic time, encountering prehistoric plants and animals and ultimately coming to understand the origins of humanity itself.
I have been wanting to read this book for several years, since I liked Around the World in 80 Days, and about a year after finding it at a library book sale, I finally read it.
The book is mostly from Axel's point of view as if he is telling the story afterwards, except for the random part where it switches to the author's narrative without any break. The story was easy to follow but it dragged a little when they talked about scientific things and some of their journeying. Overall, it was an interesting read. This is a translation, so different editions will have some differences.
The plot was pretty simple, all they did was go on a journey to the center of the earth, there was no villain. It was just an adventure story, and that was about it. It was very simple, so there were no plot holes. The reason they decided to go on the adventure, while not the best reason, was due to a character's personality while another character thought he was crazy but was still dragged along.
While the setting makes for an interesting story, it is not very realistic. It doesn't get incredibly hot as they go down towards the center of the earth and there probably is not an ocean, or extinct animals living in the earth. There were also mentions of evolution in the story and in the notes. The notes would also mention when Jules Verne got geographical or other facts wrong or confused. The characters are from Hamburg, Germany, and they also travel to Iceland while above ground.
There are three main characters: Hans, Professor Lidenbrock, and Axel. Hans is an Icelandic guide who is hired to take them to the crater of Snaefells and to help them along the way. Hans does whatever the Professor tells him to do. He is resourceful but is mostly there. Professor Lidenbrock is eccentric and impatient and is determined to go on the journey, He can sometimes be nice but gets very worked up over things. Axel is the one who tells the story. He has his moments of despair and of enthusiasm. He is realistic and since he narrates the story, you get into his head.
While this book is not perfect, it was still an interesting read and a good classic and I would recommend it.