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The Underground City (aka Child of the Cavern): 02/08/16

The Underground City (aka Child of the Cavern) by Jules Verne

Indes Noirs by Jules Verne has had numerous titles in the English translation. Of all the options, my favorite is Child of the Cavern. The American edition I have from the close of the 18th century is a brown Alta edition, The Underground City.

Published in 1877, it's the tale of the Aberfoyle coal mine in Scotland being shuttered as the last of the coal runs out. A few stubborn, long time, multigenerational workers refuse to believe the mine is spent. When some of them go missing three years later a rescue party is sent into the mine and remarkable discoveries are made.

Like Melville's Moby-Dick, Verne spends many of the middle chapters ruminating on things relevant to the plot. There are chapters describing the geology of coal, the state of the coal mining industry in the late 1800s, the economy of coal, safety measures in coal mines, and the future of coal including predictions of depletion rates by country.

Both authors used their novels to extrapolate into the future, comment on the present, and consider how we had gotten to that present. Their padding is a way to speak their opinion, stuff that can be skipped over by those who are only reading for the adventure, but there for those willing to take the time and listen. I love both authors for their long, heavily detailed tangents.

Interestingly, the Underground City's climax bears a striking resemblance to the 1984 James Bond film, A View to a Kill. A splinter group from the original cavern dwellers decides to end the underground city by flooding it. They do this by exploding the cave roof right under the nearby loch, thus draining the loch. Someone was taking notes from this book when writing the draining of San Andreas Lake.

Five stars

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