This was my third encounter of Jules Verne. My favorite remains 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, followed by Around the World in Eighty Days. I felt that Journey to the Center of the Earth is too short; it ended too abruptly. There should have been more room for Verne to expand the story; at least to dig deeper the emotional side of the characters.
The story is told from Axel's point of view. He is the nephew of Prof. Otto Lidenbrock, a German savant (a distinguished scientist) specializing in mineralogy. Axel himself is also a scientist--geology is his specialty, and has a great interest in his uncle's field. One day Prof. Lidenbrock bought an old runic manuscript, inside which Axel found a cryptic runic script written by a 16th century savant called Arne Saknussem. He claimed that he has travelled to, and found, the center of the Earth; and encouraged others to go and follow his steps through a volcanic tube inside crater of Snäfell in Iceland. The exact entrance would be pointed by the shadow of Scartaris mountain peak, at noon, by the end of June. So, off went Lidenbrock and Axel to Iceland; hired a Danish eiderdown hunter called Hans; and soon the three began what must have been the most dangerous journey men have ever taken to the center of the earth.
Of the three, Lidenbrock was the most enthusiastic traveler; while Axel the most reluctant (quite understandable as he was a young man who just fell in love with a lovely girl). Hans was indifferent, silent, but practical, as was usual for hunter.
The journey proved to be full of suspense and wonder. Down the Snäfell crater they descended a kind of steep-sided well (jökull--or volcano tube), about 2000 feet to the bowel of the Earth. Amazingly there they found a subterranean river flowed on the underground cavern with granite walls and roof. But the journey was not all wonder and comfort; at one point Axel was separated from the others and got lost in the labyrinth of the cavern. When all hope was lost, another wonder happened. A strange acoustic effect has enabled Axel and Lidenbrock to communicate from far distance, without which Axel would have been dead.
Resuming the journey, they then met another wonder: a huge subterranean Sea, off which they embarked by a raft made by Hans. During the sail they also met and escaped giant prehistoric sea monsters; found a large geyser in the middle of the Sea; then hit by a terrible storm that lasted for days and which finally wrecked their raft.
Stranded on an island, they continue the journey by foot along the coastline, where they found a prehistoric forest full of mastodons, giant birds, and even giant men—underworld civilization totally hidden, unknown, and untouched by the upperworld! This passage really felt like watching Jurassic Park! But the last stage of their journey was the most deathly, and, for us readers, the most thrilling!
Through all the excitement of scientific discoveries and the fearful or painful perils, Verne also slipped every now and then the emotional touch of humanity, like how Lidenbrock turned compassionate and tender to his dear nephew when Axel was weak after his lost. However, as I said before, I felt that Verne could have dug this field still deeper. Anyway, Journey to the Center of the Earth was written in the form of a scientific journal; so maybe it is was the perfect way anyway to weave the story.
4 / 5 is my final verdict.