Jules Verne’s books From the Earth to the Moon and its sequel Around the Moon tell the story of an American Gun Club in Baltimore that decides to build a giant cannon and send a shot to the moon. Written in 1865 and 1870, the book deeply explores the science (and particularly the math) behind such an attempt, at least as it was understood a hundred and fifty years ago.
The first thing to note about this book is the science. A significant amount of the books are devoted to the discussions and decisions involved in building a giant cannon (how big, where to build, where to aim, when to fire, etc). While I’m no slouch when it comes to science, a lot of it started to go over my head. But even if I didn’t understand the specifics, I still knew the impact on the story.
The second thing is something I’ve noticed from other early science fictions books (particularly the Barsoom series of Edgar Rice Burrows) is the difference in how fiction is written. Modern fiction seems to include more descriptions, possibly an outcome of living in a more visual-centric society. The older stories are more direct, with obstacles being smaller and surmounted quickly, whereas modern stories usually have a huge obstacle that takes the whole book to pick apart.
Not that these books aren’t fun to read, especially with what we know now of physics and the moon. A number of times, when they were discussing what they must find on the moon, or how inhabitants (referred to as Sellenites) might exist, what sort of society they might have, etc. Of course, we know the moon in uninhabited (unless [insert conspiracy theory here]), but back then they weren’t sure. Or how easily they can eject something from a pressurized canister in orbit into space.
I’m definitely going to have to read more Jules Verne. I started Journey to the Center of the Earth but I haven’t finished it. I might be able to before the end of the month, but I can’t tell for sure yet.