Book Review: Around the Moon by Jules Verne

Having finished From the Earth to the Moon without enjoying it as much as I had hoped I nonetheless carried on with the sequel, perhaps in the hope that it would be an improvement on the original.

The book opens with a brief recapitulation of the first book which might have saved me the effort of having to go through it. Though given the simplistic writing style, it was not much of a chore. Neither, it must be said, was the sequel. Our cast is now reduced to just 3, President Barbicane being  one (president of the gun club, not of any nation state) and two others who were so unmemorable that a mere week after finishing it, I had forgotten. I could look it up, but it would be more effort than it is worth.

Our insipid explorers conjecture about the nature of space and, in particular, what the moon is like. They have taken dogs and chickens with them on the flight, though there is a noticeable absence of disruption, given the enclosed space they are in. One aspect that this reader noticed was also conspicuous by its absence was any mention of sanitation. Though Verne may have thought this somewhat vulgar or base, it is nonetheless a vital aspect to consider which is woefully overlooked.

The mistake that Verne focuses on though, is one of speed. As they slowed on their exit as they were shot out of the enormous cannon, they have not attained sufficient velocity to reach the moon. Instead, they just miss the target and are pulled into orbit around it, from where they make various observations and further conjecturing. I wish I could say more, but that pretty much encapsulates the whole book. Much of it is wildly incorrect and is neither enlightening nor entertaining.

To cap it all off, the book ends with a deus ex machina whereby rockets are suddenly said to be attached to the craft, having not been mentioned before in either volume. Yet these rockets are suddenly employed and allow the 3 men to return to earth to recount their tales, rather than stay stuck in orbit and eventually die of dehydration, starvation or, more likely, asphyxiation.

I had been hoping this would be a gentle and entertaining read, though I have to report it failed to live up to expectations. Though it is easy to read, I cannot think of anyone to whom I would be likely to say, “You must read this.”

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