Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

Jules Verne. Mention that name and you think of Around the World in 80 Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and a few more classics. But, in addition to this Verne also wrote a total of 54 Books that are part of his Voyages Extraordinaires series. 54 books!!!! Why have I not heard or read these? So I decided to buy a collection of his books and this was the first one he wrote set back in 1863, and what a marvelous read it was. Now some may not like science fiction, but for me this is really a beginning of a genre and is well worth reading.
The premise is quite simple, a journey is proposed to fly a balloon East to West across Africa to try and find the source of the Nile, as well as to trace the efforts of other explorers of the Continent. We follow the exploits of Dr. Samuel Ferguson, his friend Richard Kennedy and servant Joe Wilson. The first part of the book sets out the mission and all of the details that Ferguson has to figure out in order to prepare a property balloon for the trip. A few chapters are quite detailed but they move along at a jice clip, and then we get into the journey across Africa. Along the way we get a history lesson on the previous explorers, a science lesson on the aerodynamics of flight, as well as cultural, geographic and history information on Africa, its flora and fauna and the people who inhabit it along the flight path.
To be honest, for 1863 this is quite a well-written and detailed book and one that holds up after my many internet searches.
We have the initial excitement and all those first two weeks of discover, then the doldrums of the Sahara desert, warring tribes, exotic animals, danger and travails along the way and just a darn good adventure book! A few cringe worthy words and phrases, but again he was writing in 1863, but you quickly move onto more fascinating aspects of the journey. This would be a wonderful movie, maybe it already has been made into one for all I know, but even without a movie this is a fine book, and one that all can enjoy!

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