Tuesday, November 10, 2015

154. Around The World In 80 Days

Around The World In 80 Days
Jules Verne
Around 250 pages

Did any other List Follower find this story inspirational for our quest?  A seemingly impossible wager is made and a lot of people bet against us?  Come to think of it, has anyone actually finished the List before?  I know there is a difference between reading 1001 novels and fearlessly trekking across the globe.  Although come to think of it, the 80 Days Quest might be easier, even in Verne's time.  After all, my project is going to take twenty years and I won't be paid a million pounds if I succeed.  Which is bullshit, in my opinion.

Getting back on track here, let's talk about this novel.  Phileas Fogg is a rich English loner who makes a wager for 20,000 pounds with several members of the Reform Club that he can travel around the world in 80 days (trains are magic to them, after all).  He is accompanied by his rather witless servant Passepartout, who seemed to be his Sancho.  Is anyone else sick of the simpering servant trope?  To complicate things, Detective Fix is convinced that Phileas is a wanted robber and attempts to stall him at every step so that he has enough time to obtain a warrant.

Having seen the film (and having been alive for twenty+ years), I was quite familiar with the story.  Still, I wasn't prepared for how much I was going to dislike Phileas.  We are supposed to see him as some great hero, but his servant actually shows a lot more bravery throughout the novel than Mr. Dullsville.  His only solution was to throw money at whatever problem he was facing.  Why did he even do this in the first place?  Obviously he wasn't really interested in actually seeing the world.

Well, I can't continue with my Phileas rant, or I won't have time to rant about the racism in this book.  I mean, good lord. The scope of the novel's setting allowed Verne to insult so many civilizations that I have legitimately lost track.  Some allowances must be made for the time period, but still very cringeworthy.

This novel is quite similar to Journey To The Center of the Earth, so if you liked that, you are sure to enjoy this.  And I do have to give Vernes some credit, he had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  I'll go easy on it since it didn't bore me out of my skull.  Still, I am not that sorry to say goodbye to Jules Verne.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The characters never actually fly in a hot air balloon in Verne's novel, but because of the scene in the film, the image is now on some of the covers.

Trailer for film, which won Best Picture.  Prepare for some mega white washing:

UP NEXT: The Enchanted Wanderer by Nikolai Leskov.  If the author's name is Nikolai, does that mean there will still be at least four characters named Nikolai?  I guess we will find out!

Friday, November 6, 2015

153. In a Glass Darkly

In a Glass Darkly
Sheridan Le Fanu
Around 400 pages

As I mentioned (bragged about) previously, I am currently an American Werewolf in London.  As such, my usual Halloween spirit has been somewhat subdued, as it is not as acceptable for an adult to get overly excited about it here.  Usually, I spend October stuffing candy corn in my face and reading horror novels.  The month ends with me dressing up as some obscure fictional character that no one is able to guess.  Unfortunately, no one here seems to even know what candy corn is (unless they are lying to protect their stash) and since I don't have access to a library, my reading material has been limited.  However, this is a collection of horror stories, so it kind of counts...right?

There are five short stories in In a Glass Darkly.  The first three kind of passed by without leaving too much of an impression on me.  They were very short, quite bizarre (did anyone else think Don't Look Now?) and didn't have very satisfying explanations.  The last two stories, which were technically novellas, were far more interesting.  "The Room in the Dragon Volant" tells the story of a naive Englishman who falls in love with a Countess.  The Countess is trapped in a brutal marriage and he attempts to save her.  "Carmilla" is about a lesbian vampire.  Apparently, this story "influenced" Bram Stoker.  That's a nice way of putting it.

If I was judging the last two stories, Le Fanu might earn a five star rating.  Unfortunately, I can't ignore "Green Tea" in which a man is being haunted by an evil monkey. I sincerely wish I could.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The title comes from the thirteenth chapter of the Corinthians, although it is deliberately misquoted (the quote is "For now we see through a glass, darkly."

UP NEXT: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  Probably one of the most classic-y novels I have not yet read.  Given my sophisticated lexicon, it might surprise you that there are holes in my knowledge.