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The Mysterious Island (or L'Île Mystérieuse, if you want to use the original French title) is a novel by Jules Verne. Originally published in 1874, the book is essentially a castaway story. During the American Civil War, 5 Union Soldiers and their dog companion escape a Confederate prison in a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, a storm blows them off course and they end up on a deserted island, which they are forced to make their new home. This being a Verne story, our heroes are far too industrious to merely survive. Over the course of the book, they tame the island and reconstruct the civilization they left behind. They become quite content in their new home, but never enough to abandon their ultimate quest to re-establish contact with the rest of the world.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it's based on Alexander Selkirk, whose life-story had already served as the basis for Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. Possibly as a way to distinguish itself from the other two books, Verne's yarn adds a mystery sub-plot. Someone or something is watching over the castaways; apparently aiding them at times, but whether their ultimate objective in doing so is for good or ill remains unclear for much of the book.

Fun fact: While this isn't the most famous of Verne's works, it has the distinction of having inspired two major franchises: Myst and Lost.


This book contains examples of:

  • The Atoner: Ayrton
  • Badass: Everyone.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Nemo, near the end.
  • Big Good: Captain Nemo.
  • Canon Welding: Places Verne's earlier books Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and In Search of the Castaways in the same continuity, although that leads to a Series Continuity Error in the case of the former. Together, the three books form the "Sea Trilogy".
  • Deserted Island : Played straight with Lincoln Island and subverted by the isle of Tabor.
  • The Determinator: Everyone, although Pencroff is probably the most extreme case. If you were ever trapped on a deserted island in real life with these guys, not only would you be fine, but your morale would be at an all-time high.
  • Deus Ex Machina: The whole plot is basically a sequence of those. In a surprisingly Tropes Are Not Bad way, they almost always create more suspense than they resolve, until the very end.
  • Dub Name Change: Some of the character names are changed in the earlier translations into English, e. g. Cyrus Smith being turned into Cyrus Harding, and Pencroff becoming Pencroft. Pretty much all translations changed Harbert to Herbert.
  • Eagle Land: Definitely a Flavor 1 example, although Verne's not nearly as overt here as he was with From the Earth To The Moon.
  • Executive Meddling
  • Five-Man Band
  • Happy Ending: Verne originally wanted a Bittersweet Ending where the castaways are somewhat depressed at having lost the Island. His editor had him change it to an upbeat one where they buy some territory in the state of Iowa and create a replica of the island to serve as a colony and a tourist attraction.
  • Go Mad From the Isolation : Ayrton. He's in a pretty bad state when they find him, to say the least...
  • Is It Something You Eat?: Pencroff. Surrounded by the wonders of nature, his interests are still primarily culinary.
  • Large Ham: Pencroff
  • Misplaced Vegetation / Misplaced Wildlife : Lincoln Island has almost implausible levels of biodiversity and has species that couldn't realistically exist in the latitude it's supposed to lie in. This was something already noted by Verne's contemporaries. His answer ? A wink, followed by a 19. century version of the MST3K Mantra slash Rule of Cool argument.
  • The Remnant: Nemo's origin reveals that he is an exiled Indian prince still fighting the Sepoy Rebellion and hating the British.
  • The Reveal
  • Robinsonade: This is played straight with the colonists, but deconstructed with Ayrton. Apparently his loneliness is to blame for the state in which they find him.
  • Science Marches On: Tabor island (AKA Maria-Theresa reef) where Ayrton was marooned, and which was long believed to sit at the stated location, was later proven to not exist at all. What's interesting is that the Ernest Legouve reef, a similar phantom island close to the purported Tabor's position, sits roughly in the same location as Verne's Lincoln island.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Cyrus Smith Mc Guyvered a water-filled lens from two watch glasses as the castaways initially had no other means of starting the fire.
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