In the Year 2889 by Jules Verne

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I must admit that I originally began reading this short story based solely on its title and that said title’s similarity to the song, “In the Year 2525.” When I began reading, the preface notified the reader that this Jules Verne story was in fact not written by the great Nineteenth century French science fiction/fantasy author, but by his l’enfant terrible son, Michel, who occasionally wrote fiction but published it under his famous father’s name.

The prose is not entirely eloquent, but the intrigue is found in how Michel describes his version of the future. At times, it is both amusing and oddly prophetic. Like me, I’m sure anyone fond of The Jetsons will enjoy the pneumatic tubes which people travel by or the flying cars that line up at your window (or the very George Jetson automatic dressing machine you just step into).

In the Year 2889” focuses on Mr. Fritz Napoleon Smith, an extremely wealthy newspaper magnate (apparently, in the distant future, newspapers are money makers with thousands of employees). He owns the Earth Chronicle that has 80,000,000 subscribers,

“Smith’s wealth went on growing, till now it reaches the almost unimaginable figure of $10,000,000,000.”

I wonder if the younger Verne would be disappointed in the state of newspapers in the year 2014. However, the newspapers of 2889 aren’t read: “Instead of being printed, the Earth Chronicle is every morning spoken to subscribers, who, in interesting conversations with reporters, statesmen, and scientists, learn the news of the day.”

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Michel Verne uses what I assume is exacting technical language to give a futuristic feel to 2889. Besides being delivered by tubes and flying cars, there is a Skype of the future, which Mr. Smith uses quite frequently to speak with his wife when she’s away (“the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires”–this is how I assume Skype works). The above image is an artist’s interpretation of their shared meal, even though he is in Centropolis (one must imagine this is what NYC is going by in the future) and she is in France.

There is an oddness to it all, however, in that phonographs are often used in 2889. Every subscriber of the Earth Chronicle has one. It’s so endearingly antiquated as it’s mashed into the future.

The story might not have the same pizzazz of an authentic Jules Verne story, but the imagination is there. It’s pretty marvelous to read what Michel Verne was coming up with in 1889. “In the Year 2889” is definitely worth a read and especially so, because it’s free in the public domain.

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7 comments

  1. Great review. I just finished “Around the World in Eighty Days.” I bet I’d like this book, even if his son wrote it.

  2. The interaction we can have with journalists on Twitter is basically his version of how news is delivered! What a prophet.

    I would love to know if you have read/reviewed “The Light of Other Days” by Stephen baxter (from a synposis by Arthur C. Clarke) and “The lathe of Heaven” by Ursula Le Guin?

  3. No, I haven’t. I’ll have to look into those stories. Yes! The news delivery also reminded me of television news (without the interactive quality that Twitter) has. I always get a good tickle from older stories prophesying the distant future or “current” future.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing the link to the video of that song. I remember thinking how cool it was when I first heard it as a kid, but had almost forgotten it existed. Funny how were still over 500 years away from 2525, and many things mentioned thousands of years in the future are coming to pass already.

    I also grew up reading Verne and Wells’ stories and loved them without exception. Perhaps this was fueled by the many lavish movie adaptations I also watched. I also read an interesting biography of Verne about fifteen years ago. A quick search failed to find the one I read, though, I’llhave to seek out my hard copy at home and share the title/author later.

    1. A few months ago, I heard the song used in the opening credits of a movie. So it was stuck a little bit in the back of my mind when I saw the title of this story. I hope you end up liking it. It did bring me to do some cursory internet searching about his son, who I knew nothing about. His bare-bones personal story is interesting (sort of riding the coattails of his famous father).

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