I read 20’000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was a young boy and thought it was wonderful (science fiction at its finest), and imagine my surprise when I happened upon an article one day that mentioned another book, The Mysterious Island, which served as a sort of sequel. Well, I would see about that! Of course, this was at a young enough age that 500 pages seemed impossibly big, and sure enough, it took me between three and four weeks to get through it, but it remains to this day one of my favorites.
Daniel Defoe, eat your heart out. The story of 5 castaways (and a dog) marooned on an island in the Pacific, the book charts their travails. There is Cyrus Harding, an engineering genius; Neb, his freed slave; Gideon Spilett, a famous reporter; Pencroft, a hearty sailor; and Herbert, a young lad studying biology. And of course Top, the so-smart-he’s-almost-human dog.
By dint of Cyrus engineering prowess and a dint of hard work, the colonists make a home for themselves on the island, surviving for a number of years. But all is not well: a number of unexplainable occurrences (beneficial to the colonists) make them all wonder if there isn’t some other inhabitant on the island who keeps his identity a secret.
If you’ll remember that this book is a “sequel” of sorts to 20’000 Leagues, you can probably guess who the mysterious benefactor is. Verne doesn’t tell you until the last fifty pages or so, however.
Like 20’000 Leagues, the book is heavy on science and math, as was Verne’s wont. He does to great pains to describe the flora and fawna of the island, the geological forge which created it, the chemistry that Harding employs to work his wonders, and the weather systems that seem to plague the island. If that sounds boring to you, The Mysterious Island may not be your speed. However, I love it, and any fans of Verne should pick it up immediately, or maybe just read it online [1, 2]