I just finished this book on the Kindle – it is one of about a dozen or so books in a SF collection that I bought for the Kindle: The Ultimate Science Fiction Collection: Volume Three.
I’ve read the book before – my mom had a nice hardbound copy. But Kindle is a great way to get a lot of these old classics at a reasonable price.
The story is about 5 Americans – an engineer, Cyrus Harding and a reporter Gideon Spillett, imprisoned in Richmond near the end of the Civil War. A sailor, Pencroft hatches a plan to escape in a balloon the Rebels have set up nearby but cannot use due to a storm. His ward Hebert, and a loyal Negro servant of Harding, Neb and the dog Top complete the escapees.
The escape works a bit too well, as they are blown to the South Pacific! They have to drop all of their equipment to lighten the load and they just make it to an island, where they are stranded.
Verne likes to use his characters to tweak the nations they come from in a playful way, and in this book the American energy and pluck is a major factor. The five are not stranded – they declare themselves colonists of the Island of Lincoln, to be incorporated as a state when they regain contact with the USA. Pencroft declares he won’t be satisfied until there are railroads across the island!
The mysteries about the island are not giant bees, but a set of inexplicable events that aid the five from time to time. Harding was separated in the landing, and was found inland in a cave, unconscious. The dog Top was pulled under water by a dugong, but was soon flung out and the dugong killed. A box of supplies washes ashore where they can find it.
The colonists use their skills and knowledge and energy to survive and prosper, with the occasional aid of the mysterious ‘beneficial spirit’. But the colony is doomed when the volcano becomes active, threatening to destroy them all if they cannot build a oceangoing boat to escape.