Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Greig Beck has visibly grown as an author since his first arrival on the scene, and most recently he found the motivation to tackle an ambitious project, re-telling a classic with his latest novel, To The Center Of The Earth. Following a team of cave explorers diving deep below the earth in the former Soviet Union, we witness their incredible journey following the instructions of a madwoman locked in a Russian asylum, after having travelled there herself fifty years ago.
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Greig Beck Modernizes a Classic
While classic works of literature most certainly have their place in the world, the problem lies in the fact most people have only heard of them and their significance, rather than having actually read them. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that; most people today haven’t seen Citizen Kane and aren’t expected to.
Time moves on, and more often than not people become increasingly disconnected from these classic works. However, nothing is stopping authors from trying to bring these timeless pieces back to the eyes of the public by giving their own modernized takes, as Greig Beck did in To The Center Of The Earth.
Based on Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, Greig’s novel begins by introducing us to a team of cave explorers preparing to embark on a rather questionable mission based largely on the tales of a madwoman locked in a Russian asylum and the texts of an ancient explorer. The woman in question was the only survivor of a similar expedition fifty years ago, and all she can do is warn them of the indescribable horrors awaiting them.
Not to be dissuaded by warnings of danger and whatnot, the group of brave but foolhardy explorers set out on a journey which becomes increasingly treacherous at every turn. The deeper they venture into the caves, the more anomalous their surroundings become, and the less rules of reality seem to apply. Another world awaits for them beneath the crust of the Earth, and as they’re all about to learn, conjectures and dreams of untold wonders bring along with them equally-powerful nightmares.
A Grand Departure from the Original in To The Center Of The Earth
e-telling or re-imagining a classic story is no small feat, especially due to the amount of directions which can be taken from the author’s perspective. They can do anything from only changing up a few elements to transforming virtually everything save for the skeleton of the story. In this case, it feels like Beck does the latter, and I feel like I should warn potential readers of this fact.
To The Center Of The Earth only feels related to the classic as far as the core of the story goes and some of the main beats. Apart from that, this novels feels like an entirely different beast in its own right, so do bear this in mind going forward.
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.― Greig Beck, To the Center of the Earth
In any case, this novel seems much more concerned with providing the reader with faster-paced entertainment more than anything else. The pace is fairly rapid and there are more than enough action-oriented scenes to keep things from becoming stale. There were even a few rather gruesome deaths which I wasn’t exactly expecting, but I found they did add some entertainment value in the end. In other words, this is about as modernized as I could imagine Jules Verne’s classic becoming.
On the other hand, the author does seem interested in touching on a few of the notable beats from the original story, especially when it comes to the various species and creatures they come across in their travels. While of course everything is coated with a paint of horror and modern brutality, there are still enough recognizable elements which were used to good effect. However, I wouldn’t say they were given some kind of new purpose, meaning, function, or were even expanded on to great effect. They are simply included to entertain us and move the plot along, nothing more, nothing less.
Comedy of Fools
Now, I’m not going to pretend I know exactly what Beck was aiming for when he wrote this novel, but based on my overall impression of it, seems like he was aiming for something more lighthearted, an escapist fantasy not meant to be taken too seriously or analyzed to any profound extent. This manifests itself, more than anything, through our main cast of characters whom I dearly struggle to identify as anything but a group of fools.
From the very beginning, they go onto this grand adventure sorely unprepared, even lacking essential gear such as a compass. It was difficult to really take any of them seriously, and when I stopped trying this journey became a whole lot more enjoyable.
Rather than being infuriated at the inept decisions they make, such as drinking from a pool of clearly-infested water leading to a death (with little reaction from the rest of the group), I found myself laughing at this group of jokers and looking forward to how they would sabotage themselves in the next paragraph. Beck also tries to introduce some scientific elements in this novel, but let me just say I don’t think it’s entirely his forte.
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I honestly don’t know if this is what the author was aiming for, and if I had to guess I’d say it ended up being more hilarious than it was meant to be, and perhaps for the wrong reasons at times. Nevertheless, despite the novel’s faults here and there, I personally enjoyed this change of pace from the types of books I usually read. However, I do understand this type of comedy isn’t something everyone can enjoy, and there isn’t really any guarantee you will also get it, so proceed at your own risks and perils.
The Final Verdict
To The Center Of The Earth by Greig Beck is a fairly lighthearted and surface-level modernization of Jules Verne’s classic, to the point where it stands out as its own story. If you are looking for a good escapist adventure you can entertain yourself with for a couple of evenings without taking anything seriously, then I would say this book is a fairly solid choice for this.
Greig Beck is an author from Australia residing in Sydney who had the distinction of being appointed the Australasian director of a multinational software company.
His first published novel was Beneath the Dark Ice, and since then his books have been translated into over ten languages, including bestsellers such as The Siberian Incident, not to mention the Alex Hunter and Cate Granger series.