I‘ll admit I was curious to read this after coming across a spin-off in The New Jules Verne Adventures. Fortunately I knew what to expect, that the story was dreamlike and possibly ludicrous in some of its scientific aspects. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
Starts well, with two protagonists on the Algerian coast agreeing to duel over a woman. Then in sweeps a comet, one that somehow (we’ll use this word often) manages to gouge out a couple of chunks of Earth, a significant portion of the Mediterranean Sea, a dose of atmosphere, and pockets them all neatly into a self-contained hollow as it continues on its way.
If it helps, picture ants who get spaded up, hive and all, and dumped into a bucket. It’s rather the same thing.
And so off they go, the two main characters tossing aside their feud now that they are faced with the twin tasks of exploration and existence. They group with others they find, complete little nationalities, a wistful Italian girl, a collection of Spanish gypsies, a Jewish merchant and some Englishmen (who decline to join them). In the end, they have to learn to survive as the comet passes way out past Jupiter (the seas freezing and the boats breaking up). It’s all very interesting, given all the somehows that exist.
Verne is a very interesting writer. I loved his description of the two officers of an English garrison, still soldiering on even though they’ve been carried out millions of miles…
“Without any intentional disparagement they might, in a certain way, be compared to two scarecrows which, though perfectly harmless in themselves, inspire some measure of respect, and are excellently adapted to protect the territory entrusted to their guardianship.”
Less humorous are Verne’s description of the Jewish merchant plucked up, as detailed in my post here. Talk about your rickety, rotten soapboxes.
All in all, it was an interesting story. They somehow get home, and nobody seems too bothered (or even aware) of the first passage of the comet, nor its second. Evidently everyone went to bed and quite missed the massive half-gold ball of volcanic activity roaring so close that their atmospheres are briefly shared. Somehow.
Fun book, all the same, even with all the somehows.