Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Gulliver's Travels (book)

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This review is about the 1726 book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. It is the story of one man's ill fated voyages around the globe where he encounters many different civilizations hitherto unknown. The book was written by Swift (who was a pastor) and the book is said to be a satire on the genre of 'travel' books that had been very popular at the time. This includes Robinson Crusoe (written 7 years earlier) which you will remember is the inspiration for the book Swiss Family Robinson which I reviewed here.

Gulliver's Travels is about an English surgeon who goes on a voyage (as ship's surgeon) and is shipwrecked and lands on the island of Lilliput. In this place he is a giant compared to the inhabitants. After living there for years he makes his way back home.

It seems that old Gulliver can't stand his family or something. He goes on another voyage and comes to a land where he is tiny and the inhabitants are giants. Gulliver lives there for many years until an eagle carries his traveling 'house' off and drops it in the ocean where a ship picks him up (with people of his own size) then it's back to England.

Once again Gulliver leaves home. This time he comes to a land where the royal city floats in the sky. It is called the island of Laputa. The inhabitants are sort of nut balls for science and the like. It appears through Jonathan Swift's description of the monarchy of this land that he is saying some mean things about those of royal blood in general. The royals are cross eyed and have to have servants shoot little peas or rocks at their mouths to make them speak or at their ears to make them listen. Gulliver leaves once again and comes home.

Geeze. This time Gulliver is captain of the ship (being esteemed) but runs afoul of a bad crew who mutiny and strand him on yet another strange coast. This time he runs across other humans but only just. The are more animal than human (like cavemen, sort of). They are called Yahoos. The dominant species on this strange island are in fact horses. They are called Houyhnhms. They are intelligent but vain in their simplistic view of the world. They despise the Yahoos and keep them much in the way humans keep horses. They are used for labor. Gulliver is seen as a special 'clean' Yahoo and it seems to be a label he cannot shake. Gulliver is enchanted with the horses' way of life and intends to abandon his family (bastard) and live out the rest of his life on the island. After three years the other Houymmm.. Hummon... those horse guys decided that Gulliver must leave or be put with the other Yahoos. Gulliver make a boat and goes home (in a round about way). Once home it takes him many years to even eat in the same room as his wife. He can't stand humanity after his living with the horses and he sees all humans as Yahoos.

It's amazing that so little has changed in the way we converse in several hundred years. I realize that the book has been edited throughout the years but probably not much. I thought at I might have some trouble understanding some of the language but I found no issue at all. Now if you real something like the Iliad or Beowulf you have a hard time understand what is going on because the use of language is so archaic.

I enjoyed this (audio) book. It was another Books on Tape production read by the same guy who read Around the World in 80 days (which I will probably review at some point). He is so British in his speaking that it hurts. As for the book it was fairly good and had some nice fantasy elements (considering it's age). Some of the expostulating about the human nature was a bit dull but overall it was good. There were even a few naughty parts in it (I will leave them up to you to find).

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