The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne

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It was time for another adventure novel so I went with The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. This was another great Librivox recording by "Mark Smith of Simpsonville, South Carolina." He does indeed have a way with telling a story. And this was a pretty lengthy tome as the iPad Mini shows 62 chapters and 43 hours running time. I certainly didn’t get this one done in a hurry.

Oddly, I hadn’t actually heard of this book before so it was all completely new to me, but what an exciting adventure. At the core it’s a take on the Robinson Crusoe tale of men being stranded on an island and their struggle to survive. Here we have 5 men who crash land on an island from a hot air balloon and literally start their lives over with nothing. No phones, no lights, no motorcar, not a single luxury.

But they are not deterred and soon work to make a home on this new island. They are able to find food, shelter, make tools, hunt and domesticate animals. They even go so far as to make clay, glass, cooking utensils and through the wonders of chemistry make the explosives necessary to make their home in a massive cave dug out by the water. And this they furnish with the comforts of home including beds, chairs, tables and a kitchen. Make no mistake these are some pretty enterprising men. It’s all pretty Minecraft really.

As the tale unfolds there are several strange incidents such as a message found in a bottle, a homing beacon of a fire lit on the island, a gate left open, a treasure chest full of goods they can make use of washing up on the shore and the dog barking at the mouth of the well that almost gives this story a supernatural feel. Is this island haunted? Is there someone else living on it they haven’t yet discovered?

They continue to make this island their home but there is trouble brewing on a couple of fronts. They get some unexpected visitors in the form of criminals. They get hit with several hurricanes that cause a great deal of damage to their buildings, crops and home. They are invaded by monkeys who lock them out of their own house and upset the place something fierce. There is even a visit from a mysterious stranger. But above all, it appears their small island is a hotbed of activity with a volcano that is far too loud to be dormant much longer.

It seems this book was not as well received as other Verne titles, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Reading or rather listening along, you can’t help but think of Lost, MacGyver, Gilligan’s Island and Castaway. Cyrus Harding is clearly the Professor from Gilligan’s Island as he is able to create all sorts of modern tools with the materials found on the island. Pencroft could indeed be The Skipper except a bit more competent. They are able to locate and rescue another castaway who has a dubious past and he shies away from talking with the others or even associating with them. This clearly reminds me of the premise of Lost. And since they make all these tools out of basic ingredients, well, there you have MacGyver.

All in all, it was quite fun and you have to keep wondering, will they get off the island? Are they stuck there forever? This is how they will make their escape – nope, that didn’t quite work out. In actuality there is so much going on in this book and so many different adventures, it’s hard to describe them all.

Even though it’s an older story, it really seems like a younger audience would get a big kick out of this. It blends so much of crafting and building like all the cool video games. This is some pretty high adventure with lots of ingenuity. It also has a strong story of all the men working together and for each other. They share all the things they have, divide out tasks, work without complaining and when faced with a dangerous situation, they rally together and face it head on. Some enviable character traits.

I looked for a movie version, and while there are several, judging from the cover and notes, none will do it justice. Maybe it’s better not to ruin this story by watching some half-assed movie conception.

If you have the time, get the audiobook by Mark Smith. Great story telling and he keeps pulling you along and gets you excited for the next chapter. Too bad there isn’t more emphasis on stories like this.

I’m not sure where to go to next. Considering all the books I have and have access to it’s not like there is a shortage, I’m just not sure what my next fancy is.

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