August 5, 2014
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Around The World In Eighty Days

by Jules Verne

80 Days, Meg Jaynath’s heralded game adaptation for iOS, has been much discussed lately. I’d never read the book, and I thought it might be a good idea to know the original before diving into its interactive steampunk adaptation.

It’s an interesting book. We all know the story, of course, and though Verne is one of the first masters of scientific romance, this isn’t SF: everything in the book was quite possible in 1872. It’s fun too, to see how the Western US looked to Europeans back then, a wilderness of beauty and violence where civilization was never more than a veneer, and where Chicago itself had just risen from its ashes. Sure, it’s wildly colonial. It’s actually more feminist than I would have expected, and it’s worth mentioning that nobody raises an eyebrow at the prospect of interracial marriage,

What’s best here, though, is the interesting construction in which a French servant views his ultra-British master while the rest of the world whizzes past. Quiet shifts of time and viewpoint manage narrative stress with seeming effortlessness. Throughout, the ultimate virtues are those of a good traveller: punctuality, flexibility, openness to experience, consideration for one’s companions, but above all a willingness to accept delays and disappointments you cannot change and a refusal to worry about problems if worrying will not help.