Around the World in Eighty Days
Around the World in Eighty Days is a novel written by Jules Verne. It was first published in French as a serial completed on 1872-12-21. It is the 11th book in Verne's Extraordinary Voyages series, reading not just as a novel, but as a travelogue.
In the book an extremely punctual and quite wealthy British eccentric named Phileas Fogg, tells his acquaintances that, now that industrial advancements in travel have been completed, a person could travel around the world in 80 days provided they planed their route with precision. His acquaintances scoff at such an unbelievably short time reminding him that any number of things could go wrong on such a long journey, but Fogg is so resolute, he makes a huge wager and leaves immediately. However, just before he leaves town, a huge amount of money is stolen from a bank, and law enforcement are convinced Fogg is the thief who is fleeing the country with his ill-gotten gains, so they pursue him around the globe in at attempt to stop him.
The book was so successful that, 16 years after its publication, journalist Nellie Bly actually traveled the route set out in the book and completed it in only 72 days, meeting Verne at the end. Several others followed in her footsteps since. One thing I found interesting is how most reprint covers feature a hot air balloon, as do many adaptions, but the characters never ride one in the book and only briefly mention them as being too risky to use.
Due to the popularity of the novel, many adaptions have been made, so I had been aware of the the story since I was a child, but I didn't know any of the details of the story, and, having no love for European literature, I never bothered to actually read the book. However, after finishing the video game adaption of Tweety's High-Flying Adventure, my interest in the story was once again piqued, and I felt I owed it to myself to finally read the novel. I finished it on 2022-07-05. I found it to have a few interesting moments, but to otherwise be quite dull.
I don't own this book, but I've listened to an audiobook read by Jim Dale.
— This section contains spoilers! —
- I like how, early in the novel, Phileas Fogg is suspected to be a criminal, and the suspicion continues through the entire novel.
- The book has a lot of details about the geography and culture of far away lands that most readers would never see.
- The scene in the Reform Club where all the members are waiting around for Fogg to not show up, when the reader already knows he lost, but then he does show up to win, is quite enjoyable.
- The audiobook read by Jim Dale is fantastic. Dale is an amazing reader and lots of music from the period culture is played in the background.
- While I tend to like eccentric characters, Phileas Fogg is annoying. His unflinching belief that careful planning can somehow control weather, mechanical failure, civil unrest, and the like is just obnoxious. Also, as far a heroes go, I have a hard time rooting for a passionless rich white man. He wastes his time in far off places playing whist without even bothering to look out the window and see the sights. He deals with delays by just throwing money at them until he gets out of them. It's neither honorable nor interesting for someone to buy their way out of a bet.
- As far as foils go, Detective Fix is quite boring and not very good at his job.
- After you learn that Fogg lost, it isn't exactly heartbreaking. He's not going to be tortured or executed, he's just no longer going to have his undeserved inherited wealth. His great "loss" is that he won't be able to afford servants and will have to — clutch your pearls — get a job. In fact, if he hadn't squandered his riches along the journey, he would have still been rich even if he lost. So, really, it's entirely his own fault that he's become destitute.
- There is a lot of racism. Even those characters who aren't British insist that the British colonization of India and the Americas is a moral good, not just because they're bringing technology to the land of the "savages," but also because they're stamping out their demonic non-Christian beliefs. The depictions of native Americans are especially horrifying. There are plenty of jabs at the French as well — much of which can be seen as self-deprecation since Verne himself is French — but I'm still sure a lot of other French people wouldn't appreciate them.
- The book is a sausage fest with only a single female character named in the book. And, even when the "heroes" interfere with a native religious ritual to rescue the attractive young woman who was to be sacrificed, the author can't have them save a native Indian, but a woman "properly" raised by the British. The author had to do this because Aouda later becomes a reward for Fogg by falling in love with him, not because he's interesting or romantic, but because he spends a lot of money on her, and it wouldn't be appropriate for a rich Englishman to marry an Indian "savage," but a colonized woman is perfectly exotic.
- Adding onto the bigotry, Western drugs like alcohol and tobacco are depicted as gentlemanly delights, but Eastern drugs like hashish and opium are highly addictive chemicals of the devil!
- At one point when they're quickly trying to get through the city, Verne casually writes that they ran over two dogs, and nobody cares.
- "Mr. Fogg accordingly tasted the dish, but, despite its spiced sauce, found it far from palatable. He rang for the landlord, and, on his appearance, said, fixing his clear eyes upon him, 'Is this rabbit, sir?' 'Yes, my lord,' the rogue boldly replied, 'rabbit from the jungles.' 'And this rabbit did not mew when he was killed?' 'Mew, my lord! What, a rabbit mew! I swear to you—' 'Be so good, landlord, as not to swear, but remember this: cats were formerly considered, in India, as sacred animals. That was a good time.' 'For the cats, my lord?' 'Perhaps for the travelers as well!'"
- "As for seeing the town, the idea never occurred to him, for he was the sort of Englishman who, on his travels, gets his servant to do his sightseeing for him."