The first big disappointment of my book-reading year has been Robur the Conqueror.
It can be summarised as follows:
1) Helicopters are better than hot air balloons
2) Americans are easily caricatured
3) Characterisation is for losers
That’s about it.
While preparing this exhaustive summary it struck me that Jules Verne was the Dan Brown of his time. Both authors produced books consisting of lumps of poorly-digested research stuck together with action sequences engaged in by two-dimensional characters. And, look at the supposedly baffling cryptograms at the beginnings of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code’. They are both so terribly lame.
The big difference – which reflects badly on our century, rather than on either of these tremendously successful and industrious writers – is that in the 19th century ordinary people were interested in science and technology, whereas today, having sloughed off the inheritance of the Enlightenment like so many of Lady Prunella’s petticoats, ordinary people are interested in waffly occult rubbish.