“The Mysterious Island” is the tale of five men and a dog who crash their balloon on a mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific. At first glance, the story is a survival tale in classic form: five men wrecked on a distant island, with no food or supplies. However, the focus of the story, is not merely struggles to survive, but more importantly how man is master of his own fate. Interestingly the story contains two elements.
The first element is the men's own efforts to conquer nature using the island's natural resources. Among other endeavors the men create bricks, refine metal, make dynamite and batteries, and partly drain a lake. But there is a second element in “The Mysterious Island.” A strange benevolent force on the island saves the men from disaster numerous times, saving their lives, helping them to repel wild animals and fight off a group of attacking pirates. The five men are only partly self-sufficient; ultimately it is this powerful benefactor that will save and sustain them from the book's start to end. The castaways may be able to conquer nature in some aspects, but nature's mighty power will ultimately conquer them.
I found “The Mysterious Island” fascinating because of the interrelations between these two elements. Jules Verne gives first one, then the the other, the upper hand. In the end, neither win out, but the contrast makes a wonderful reading experience.
If you have read “20000 Leagues Under the Sea” you will enjoy “The Mysterious Island” because its enigmatic Captain Nemo makes an appearance toward the end. “The Mysterious Island” explains more about Captain Nemo's past and his motivation for making the sea his home.
In short “The Mysterious Island” is a marvelous novel that is among the best of Jules Verne's works that I have ever read.