In 1863 Jules Verne, famed author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth, wrote a novel that his literary agent deemed too far fetched to be published. More than one hundred years later, his great-grandson found the handwritten, never-before published manuscript in a safe. That manuscript was Paris in the Twentieth Century, and astonishingly prophetic view into the future by one of the most renowned science fiction writers of our time. . . .
Praise for Paris in the Twentieth Century
“Jules Verne was the Michael Crichton of the 19th century.”—The New York Times
“For anyone interested in the history of speculative fiction . . . this book is an absolute necessity.”—Ray Bradbury
“Verne's Paris is a bustling, overcrowded metropolis teeming with starving homeless and ‘vehicles that passed on paved roads and moved without horses.’ Years before they would be invented, Verne has imagined elevators and faxmachines. It was a vision Verne's editor flatly rejected. Contemporary readers know better.”—People
“An excellent extrapolation, founded on 19th-century technical novelties, of a future culture.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Verne published nearly seventy books, many of them now considered classics. But this little jewel catches him just reaching stride as a writer of science fiction, a genre that he, of course, helped put on the literary map.”—The Denver Post
Verne's recently discovered first novel, written over 125 years ago and now smoothly translated from its French edition by the poet Richard Howard. Verne's editor rejected the manuscript in 1863 for its "unrealistic" view of the future, though, as it turns out, Verne's grim predictions are chillingly exact. A better reason to reject his novel would have been that Verne had not yet learned to portray believable characters. Not that he'd ever be very good at it, but his young hero here, Michel Dufrenoy, is little more than a prop to be shuttled about various neighborhoods of Paris in 1960, as imagined from the perspective of 1860. Michel has two male friends and a girlfriend, none of them memorable. Michel's artistic, more-or-less blacklisted uncle is, however, quite so, but only because Verne uses him as a mouthpiece to explain what happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries to bring about a dystopian Paris. In any case, Verne's predictions, as always, surpass any other writer's in their precision: ". . . the study of belles lettres and of ancient languages (including French) was at this time virtually obsolete . . . some classes in literature were still taught, though these were sparsely attended." FAX machines, computers, automobiles, and high-speed trains are all clearly described, as are a number of devices that boggle the mind in their complexity but have yet to be invented. Remarkably, Verne's 20th-century Paris rarely seems dated. This may be because Verne was uncannily correct in his major predictions, that the future would be dominated by corporations and that technology would be the dominant god. Nothing impractical or unprofitable can exist in this world, and, in the end, people are no more than fragile machines expected to serve without question the corporate deities. Hardly H.G. Wells, or even Verne at his best, but, still, quite a welcome - and startling - curiosity. (Kirkus Reviews)