The Shrinking World

Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne,  Brian W. Aldiss, Michael Glencross

I just noticed a little oddity with Goodreads in France: they used 'et' instead of 'and' when it tells you that people have liked a review. Mind you, they still use the work 'like' and opposed to 'aimer', which is a little disappointing, though apparently the word like, when used in the context of liking something on Social Media, has been taken onboard by numerous languages as apparently the Germans do something similar. I guess this is further evidence of how English is slowly embedding itself as a global language (though I can't remember if in Germany Goodreads uses 'und' instead of 'and').


Anyway, I wasn't planning on finishing this book until I had left Amiens, namely because I wanted to visit the Jules Verne house beforehand. However it turned out that while Google told me that the Jules Verne house was closed on Tuesdays that wasn't entirely correct – during the summer it is just closed in the mornings, so I managed to visit his abode the day I arrived, which meant that I could leave Amiens earlier, though unfortunately the train strike means that I have to take a detour through Paris (oh the tragedy of the situation) as opposed to going directly to Rouen. While I won't be posting this until I get to Rouen (the simcard that I purchased for my phone is absolute rubbish – the company is SFR by the way) I am using the extra time to actually write this review.



Come to think of it, the train strike, and the railway carriage that I am sitting in writing this review, sort of congers up the idea of being a part of Phineas Phogg's adventure, though he sort of has a lot more at stake than I do (it just means that I get to Rouen a lot later than I originally anticipated – not that it turns out to be a problem).





One of the things that I saw in Verne's house was the route that Phogg took on his journey, though it was interesting seeing how he worked it out since there are other books, such as Robur the Conqueror, who also take similar journeys and Verne didn't want to repeat a similar journey with this one. The other thing was that it needed to be possible to do the journey in eighty days, and as such needed to take the most direct, and fastest, route possible. Mind you, it wasn't like today where you could easily make the trip in, well, three days (traveling by commercial airliner that is, though you could possibly do the trip a lot faster if you hitched a ride on a jet fighter).


Phineas Fogg's Route



The whole idea of the book is to show how the world has become much much smaller (and it has become even smaller with the advent of the commercial airliner and the internet). At the beginning of the century getting from England to Australia would take six months in a leaky boat, and not much had really changed in the millenia from when people realised that they could get a horse to do all the walking, and that jumping on a log that was floating down the river was a lot quicker than crawling through the woods. Okay, roads did speed things up somewhat, as did making sure that bandits didn't harass wayward travellers, however the collapse of the Roman Empire did mean that many of these roads, while very well built, did start to decay (though quite a few of them are still being used today – in fact our tour guide at the Somme Battlefields referred to the roads as 'the Roman Roads').


The thing is that technology has made the world much smaller, though Phogg did to have some very deep pockets to enable him to make the journey, and to overcome the obstacles that got in his way every so often. However, the two main forms of transport – the train and the steamer – did a lot to make the world much smaller. In fact the idea of connecting the United States by railway did much to tame what was in a sense a wild land – the railway meant that people could move a lot faster, and troops could be deployed in places a lot quicker as well. Of course we have this famous picture of when the two lines finally met, which gives the impression that this massive continent had been conquered.


Promontary Point



However Le Tour du Monde is much more than just a diary of some eccentric guy who is trying to prove to a bunch of people that he can make the journey in an incredibly short time: there is also adventure, and mystery, thrown into it. The reason he makes the journey is because there had just been a bank robbery (the Bank of England I believe, though I didn't think one could actually rob a central bank, however that debate is a debate for another time) and the members of this private club were arguing as to how easy it would be for the robber to disappear. Phogg's argument was 'not difficult at all – in fact technology of today meant that once he was on the continent he would be gone'. The argument then moves on to how fast one could get around the world.


As it turns out the police are a little suspicious of Phogg – why take a such a journey so soon after a bank robbery? So a detective, Mr Fix, decides to follow him, but as soon as he leaves Hong Kong he realises that he can't arrest him as he has left British jurisdiction (and the warrant is late in arriving), so he ends up following him on his journey. Mind you, one can't travel across the American West without being attacked by Native Americans, or be required to rescue a princes somewhere along the way (as well as visiting a Chinese opium den), so in a way this little romp around the world literally has everything (except a boxing Kangaroo, unfortunately, so here is a pic for those who missed out).


Boxing Kangaroo



26 August 2016 - Rouen




Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1731122640