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From the Earth to the Moon ~ A Capsule Book Review

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From the Earth to the Moon ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

From the Earth to the Moon is an 1865 science fiction/fantasy novel by Jules Verne. Even though Jules Verne was a Frenchman and wrote in French, the novel is set in America because that is where people think big and accomplish the impossible.

The Civil War has ended and American military men are unhappy that there’s nobody else to fight. But, wait a minute, there’s some other way for these people to expend their excess energy. The president of the Baltimore Gun Club, one Impey Barbicane (with a name like that, we know we’re not being serious), comes up with the interesting idea of shooting a projectile all the way to the moon out of a cannon. It won’t be easy, of course, but these are Americans, and they don’t know the meaning of “impossible.”

Soon people all over the world are fascinated by the idea of sending a vessel to the moon. Most think it’s a good idea whose time has come, but there are always the naysayers who are sure it’s a disaster in the making. Donations come pouring in from every part of the globe, in the millions, to finance the expensive project.

It’s going to take a very large cannon to shoot a projectile with enough force to traverse the quarter-of-a-million miles between the earth and the moon. It is decided, after much thought and research, that the cannon will have to be nine hundred feet long, buried in the ground, and will be ignited with something known as guncotton. The place chosen for the cannon is Florida because it’s part of the United States proper and is below the twenty-eighth parallel, which is necessary to allow for the best shot at the moon. And, since the moon and the earth are constantly moving, the projectile must be launched at a certain time to be capable of reaching the moon. Many thousands of people, from all over the world, are fascinated by the prospect of a vessel traveling to the moon and converge on Florida, making a city out of a wasteland.

Many chapters are devoted to the construction of the cannon and the logistical problems that must be overcome to send a vessel to the moon. In the spirit of American adventurism, no problem is too difficult. As the date for the launch approaches, Impey Barbicane and two other of his associates decide they will make the trip more interesting by placing themselves in the projectile and riding along to the moon. After they figure out problems of food, water and air, there isn’t anything that will stop them. Are there people on the moon and, if so, how will they receive men from earth? Are there fearsome animals that might be dangerous? The intrepid trio take along firearms just in case.

From the Earth to the Moon is interesting because it’s written by a master of the fantasy/fantastic genre and is a nineteenth century Frenchman’s view of America, complete with boastful characters who love to fight and never shrink from a challenge. There’s lots of humor in the novel and a lightness to the proceedings. We never once think that Impey Barbicane and his two compatriots will die in the vessel or that they won’t be able to return safely to earth. There is no death in a book like this. Death is not part of the equation.

Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp

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