Often referred to as the founder of Sci-Fi, Jules Verne had, over his lifetime, created several works of fiction that are still loved by many today.
“In consequence of inventing machines, men will be devoured by them” (Jules Verne)
Even well-known entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, and adventure seekers like Nellie Bly, Wiley Post and Steve Fossett have tried many times to follow in the footsteps of some of Verne’s most famous characters. So who is this man that has gone on to inspire so many?
“Ah, young people, travel if you can, and if you cannot –travel all the same!” (Jules Verne)
Who is Jules Verne?
Born in 1828 on Ile Feydeau, a small artificial Island within Nantes, this French man went on to create an incredible 54 novels that would be published during his lifetime, with some also added by his son posthumously.
He inspired generations of scientists, inventors and explorers, who now push the boundaries of everything that is perceived to be the limits of our being. You only need to visit Nantes and then venture onto the Island of Machines (Les Machines des I’ile) to see his influence, or switch on a TV and re-watch Michael Palin’s ‘Around the World in 80 days’ to realise that he has been motivating people for years to push to boundaries.
It’s not just influencers that are inspired by this man though. As a young girl, I remember curling up on the sofa each week to whatch ‘The Adventures of Willy Fog’, a cartoon based on one of Jules Verne’s most famous novels, which then led me to want to explore every corner of this world in more depth.
With 54 novels to read, however, where should one start?
Whether you are a sci-fi geek, a travel fanatic or have an interest in poetry this writer created something for everyone.
6 Titles Well Worth Your Consideration
Around the World in 80 days
It would be remiss of me not to mention this novel first; after all it was inspiration for a young book junkie in her quest to travel the globe exploring cultures unknown.
We first meet Phileas Fogg in England, when after an evening of gambling, he mentions to his peers that he believes he could travel the world in just 80 days. It naturally then comes as no surprise when he is challenged to do just that, and wagers are placed.
“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager.”
Phileas is adamant that he will succeed and so heads off with his companions in tow, excited to see what the world has to offer.
We read about him racing around countries in need of help to travel by any means possible in an attempt to return in London before the deadline set. With obstacles placed in his way it becomes an extremely tight race against time if he is to be successful in his quest.
“I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new”
20,000 leagues Under the Sea
Classed as one of Verne’s greatest works, in this novel we read about the adventures of Captain Nemo, probably one of the most famous antiheroes of all time, and a submarine named the Nautilus.
An expedition has been sent out in search of a reported Sea Monster only to be captured by Captain Nemo. Whilst he hides his true identity, the captain and his new shipmates continue to visit many oceans in search of new adventures, until it becomes apparent that Nemo intends to never release his new crew members.
“Sir,” replied the commander, “I am nothing to you but Captain Nemo; and you and your companions are nothing to me but the passengers of the Nautilus.” (Jules Verne)
Liked by scientists and geeks alike, this novel, unlike many others, utilises many scientific theories that are factually accurate such as the features and workings of a submarine.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Professor Lindenbrock purchases a manuscript of Icelandic Saga, which has a secret code written within it that he just had to crack. After locking himself away with his nephew Axel, they come to the conclusion that they have discovered a passage that will take them into the middle of the Earth, through a volcano in Iceland.
“… let no one get before us in this design of discovering the centre of the earth.” (Jules Verne)
With impatience growing, the professor heads off to Snǽfell and descends into the volcano. Verne then spends several chapters describing the dangers they encounter until they finally reappear through Stromboli volcano in Italy.
The Mysterious Island
After hijacking a hot air balloon, we read about the adventures of five Americans stuck on an Island in the Pacific Ocean during the American Civil War. Naming their Island ‘Lincoln’ Island, after their president they continue to work out how to survive in their new surroundings.
“An energetic man will succeed where an indolent one would vegetate and inevitably perish”.
After finding a message in a bottle, they proceed to rescue the castaway but end up losing their way, being guided only by a glowing beacon. When the Island is finally discovered, it is revealed that Captain Nemo is using it as a hideout, therefore linking the two stories, and providing Jules Verne fans with an opportunity to finally find out what happens to the villain.
Five Weeks in a Balloon
Dr Samuel Fergusson embarks on a journey to travel across the African continent. After starting in Zanzibar he travels across Lake Victoria, Lake Chad, Timbuktu and into modern day Senegal in a hot air balloon. During his adventures you will read about the time that he rescues a missionary from a tribe that were prepared to sacrifice him, a episode where he is attacked by condors and find out how he survives a potentially fatal time in the Sahara desert.
This is a story that combines adventure, travel and detailed historical research. Verne himself has also been known to say that this was an “indication of the…novel…I was destined to follow”.
“If savages had the ways of gentlemen, where would be the difference?” (Jules Verne)
An Antarctic Mystery
In French, this story is better known as ‘Le Sphinx des glaces’.
This two-part story follows the exploits of a narrator who travels to the Kerguelen Islands located in the Indian Ocean.
The narrator is a wealthy American who has been on the Islands studying the wildlife. Now in search of passage back to America he jumps at an opportunity to travel onboard the Halbrane. Once underway they come face to face with a stray icelberg before heading on to Tristan da Cunha and the Falkland Islands. Travelling across the Antarctic Ocean during the summer means that they avoid heavily packed ice leading to the ship safely arriving on Tsalal just at the end of volume one.
Volume two sees them moving further south where, in a freak storm, the Halbrane hits an iceberg and is lost. What happens to those on board ? You will have to read the rest to find out for yourself.
With so many books it is difficult to isolate just a couple to recommend to others.
Jules Verne was a masterful writer, who was able to capture the imagination of millions not just during his lifetime, but even today which is evident through everything we are trying to achieve.
One Final Fact
Would you like to learn more about this author?
Why not read a Jules Verne Biography (there are several to choose from)
Alternatively, if you are visiting Nantes in the future we highly recommend a visit to the Jules Verne Museum.
Not much of a reader? Check out the many film adaptations that have been created including:
Have you been inspired by this writer, or any writer for that matter? We would love to hear how you have been motivated.