Jules Verne tells us the story of five Americans - engineer Cyrus Harding, his servant Neb, journalist Gideon Spilett, sailor Pencroft, and his friend Herbert Brown, and Cyrus' dog Top - who escape the American Civil War by hijacking a balloon. Caught in terribly stormy weather, the balloon finally crash lands on an unknown island. This is the story of their fight for survival in an island that is remote and bountiful all at once, where near-death experiences and surprising windfalls cross their paths with equal force.
Although I hate to say this about the author whose "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" is one of my best books of all time, while this book certainly captured my interest, it did not quite hold it for long. As the tale weaves through the castaways' struggles to stay alive, and walks us through their discoveries made and lessons learnt, after a point it started to read like a very intense survival guide.
While it was certainly fascinating to grow along with the five as they started from creating fire and building safe dwellings and moved to making clothing, transportation and even made iron ore and an electric telegraph ... I felt, as a layman reader, there was no need to get into pages and chapters of how, for instance, to make nitro-glycerine.
That said, at every step of the way, I always had a very strong sense of "being there"; the writing was always powerful enough to make this a very real experience. And finally, the secret of the island revealed at the very end absolutely blew me away! The events that unfolded in the grand finale almost made me forget the arduous journey immediately preceding it.