Top positive review
An engaging old-world perspective of Africa
on December 31, 2014
For Jules Verne's first novel, this is remarkably well-developed. I enjoyed it more than 20,000 Leagues and about as much as the Mysterious Island (a boyhood favorite).
I understand that this is a satire of the African explores and their constant oneupmanship. I've read some of those journals and appreciated Verne's idea of sailing his men far over Livingstone, Burton, and Speke' expeditions in a balloon.
The protagonists' attitudes and references to the Africans seem horribly pejorative to the modern reader (especially one living in Africa), but Verne stoops no lower than the common views of 1863.
The best commendation I can give about this is that it made me want to build my own hydrogen balloon and try to recreate this journey. Some of his scenes were a bit contrived (how did the wind move the balloon in just the right direction to save Joe?) But others were believable enough that it made me wonder what lengths Verne went to in his research.
Definitely worth reading for fun.