From the Earth to the Moon

Jules Verne
From the Earth to the Moon Cover

From the Earth to the Moon


President Kennedy challenged us that we would send a man to the moon and safely return him to the Earth within the decade, and so we did. Jules Verne’s Gun Club characters did it in a year, with the technology and scientific knowledge of a century earlier. Well, they didn’t think about the safe return part. It’s often remarked how prophetic Verne was of the Apollo mission. Nah – any similarities are pure coincidence.

The first few chapters of From the Earth to the Moon, regarding The Gun Club, are lighthearted, even silly. This sets the tone for the book, saying this is written in fun - don’t take it too seriously. Verne based his story in science, such that it was. It was science as the layman of the day might know it. The design of the project was accomplished in three short meetings regarding the cannon, the projectile, and the propellant, without the inconvenient bother of the employment of engineers. And if there were uncertainties, have a brief debate, and –hip hip hooray- barge ahead undaunted. In debate, Michel Ardan declared that he was intrepid because he was ignorant of the dangers. Though unsaid, this was also true of Barbicane and his Gun Club cohorts. It is Verne's humor, the Gun Club's scientific bluster, that lets the mission succeed (sort of) and lets the reader accept the seemingly detailed technicalities without question. The light spirit of the book tells us not to quibble with Verne’s cavalier approach to science and technology. Still, the book is grounded enough in hard science to give it an air of plausibiltiy. There is one thing that did raise my eyebrows just a bit, and if Verne had done his homework he could have avoided this bit of geophysical fiction. Of course his readers probably had little knowledge of the topography of Florida and never would have suspected how outlandish it was for the Gun Club gang to discover a hill 1800 feet above sea level near Tampa.

The book is a pleasant quick read and more enjoyable than his Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, the only other Verne book I’ve read. The prose of From the Earth to the Moon differs in style, being much less the stuffy formality of nineteenth century writing of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. I suppose that this might be attributable to different translators.