I’ve been poking around the web, looking for sites/blogs/podcasts/other stuff about adventure fiction. Far and away the most common content I encounter is somebody’s list of “the top X adventure books.” The titles on these lists tend to skew old and literary. That is, the lists favor stuff that has been around for a while, and stuff that was meant for those with somewhat elevated tastes. Pre-WWII pulp fiction, mid 20th century men’s adventure, and modern bestsellers are lightly represented.
There are a handful of authors that make everybody’s lists. Rider Haggard, J.R.R. Tolkein, Jack London, Walter Scott, and Alexandre Dumas have titles that are on everyone’s list of best adventure books.
There’s another author who always makes the list that I have issue with. I have read a couple of his books. I have also tried and failed to read his stuff many, many times through the years. The author is Jules Verne, and I have a problem with his books on list of adventure books.
Jules Verne is boring.
I’ll give him credit for imagining where technology could take us, and being a pioneer in science fiction. The problem is, all the crazy pie-in-the-sky stuff he imagined years ago has all been done. Most of it–even going to the moon–happened before I was born. Stories about stuff that happened decades ago aren’t, in and of themselves, interesting. Traveling in a submarine is now just a job. A complex job, to be sure, and one that packs lots of challenges that I’m not even aware of. But it’s no longer inherently interesting.
The essence of fiction is conflict and hard choices; Verne presents us with neither of these. People need to face danger, make decisions with no good outcomes, risk life and limb to make a good story. Verne is light on conflict and heavy on description. It’s not a recipe for exciting reading.
If I wanted someone to have a good time reading, or to learn what adventure fiction is all about, I would not recommend Jules Verne.