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A Fantasy of Dr. Ox

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Something very strange is in the air of the harmonious town of Quiquendone. Unknown to its inhabitants, the mad genius Dr. Ox has unleashed a veil of oxyhydric gas over the town—his own living laboratory—in an attempt to spice things up. In his amusing portrait of an idyllic community suddenly overtaken by an appetite for aggression, Jules Verne points to the ease with whi Something very strange is in the air of the harmonious town of Quiquendone. Unknown to its inhabitants, the mad genius Dr. Ox has unleashed a veil of oxyhydric gas over the town—his own living laboratory—in an attempt to spice things up. In his amusing portrait of an idyllic community suddenly overtaken by an appetite for aggression, Jules Verne points to the ease with which any society—and the modern resonance is unmissable—can be manipulated by its masters into hatred and war. Jules Verne was the originator of modern science fiction; among his works are Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth.


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Something very strange is in the air of the harmonious town of Quiquendone. Unknown to its inhabitants, the mad genius Dr. Ox has unleashed a veil of oxyhydric gas over the town—his own living laboratory—in an attempt to spice things up. In his amusing portrait of an idyllic community suddenly overtaken by an appetite for aggression, Jules Verne points to the ease with whi Something very strange is in the air of the harmonious town of Quiquendone. Unknown to its inhabitants, the mad genius Dr. Ox has unleashed a veil of oxyhydric gas over the town—his own living laboratory—in an attempt to spice things up. In his amusing portrait of an idyllic community suddenly overtaken by an appetite for aggression, Jules Verne points to the ease with which any society—and the modern resonance is unmissable—can be manipulated by its masters into hatred and war. Jules Verne was the originator of modern science fiction; among his works are Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

30 review for A Fantasy of Dr. Ox

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    This is a lighter and more humorous piece than is Verne's wont, featuring a somnolent Flemish town which is stirred up by the mysterious Dr. Ox's secret gas, which has an effect somewhat like the mind-altering signal in The Iron Duke. My edition was illustrated charmingly by Pene du Bois and is printed, inexplicably, sideways to the binding so that one holds it as if admiring a centerfold and flips the pages down towards one. So: There are tongue-in-cheek chapter titles such as In Which Matters Go This is a lighter and more humorous piece than is Verne's wont, featuring a somnolent Flemish town which is stirred up by the mysterious Dr. Ox's secret gas, which has an effect somewhat like the mind-altering signal in The Iron Duke. My edition was illustrated charmingly by Pene du Bois and is printed, inexplicably, sideways to the binding so that one holds it as if admiring a centerfold and flips the pages down towards one. So: There are tongue-in-cheek chapter titles such as In Which Matters Go So Far That the Inhabitants of Quiquendone, the Reader, and Even the Author, Demand an Immediate Denouement. Fun, but disappointingly, the Dr.'s identity and motivations are never revealed, which makes the project a bit slight.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    This was an entertaining short novel, very much different from the other Verne books I've read. It's the story of a mad scientist who energizes the inhabitants of a Flemish village that hasn't changed much for nine hundred years by means of a magic gas-- oxygen. It's a very amusing social satire with some absurdist elements and leaves the reader wondering what Dr. Ox's motivation was, and whether or not the changes were beneficial to the residents of Quiqunedone. There are some very funny lines, This was an entertaining short novel, very much different from the other Verne books I've read. It's the story of a mad scientist who energizes the inhabitants of a Flemish village that hasn't changed much for nine hundred years by means of a magic gas-- oxygen. It's a very amusing social satire with some absurdist elements and leaves the reader wondering what Dr. Ox's motivation was, and whether or not the changes were beneficial to the residents of Quiqunedone. There are some very funny lines, such as the description of Dr. Custos: "As for Dr. Custos, he was an honorable practitioner who, following the example of his colleagues, cured his patients of all their diseases, except the one they died from: a disagreeable habit that has been picked up, unfortunately, by all the members of the medical profession, whichever country they practice in." Later, there's a duel between Frantz and Simon, both of whom have fallen in love with the lovely young daughter of the burgomaster: "One hundred and twenty-seven shots were exchanged without any damage to the combatants, who bore themselves with the greatest dignity, but forty-three bystanders did pick up the odd graze or two. Seeing this, the seconds, visibly disquieted for their own safety, finally declared that honour had been satisfied!" There was one scene at an opera that I thought stretched a bit too long, and my copy contained both a foreword and introduction that were quite tedious and I'd recommend skipping both entirely. Other than that, a surprisingly fun and fast read from one of the old Old Masters.

  3. 5 out of 5

    A.E. Shaw

    Quiquendone is a self-sufficient land of barley-sugar and whipped cream. Already, I am hungry, and happy. Gloriously, this state of affairs was to continue throughout A Fantasy of Dr Ox. Jules Verne is the author who catapulted me into a certain type of book, when, very young, I gobbled up Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Around the Moon, and From the Earth to the Moon in a weekend, and then everything else I could find of his in the weeks shortly afterwards. I have read Journey to the Centre Quiquendone is a self-sufficient land of barley-sugar and whipped cream. Already, I am hungry, and happy. Gloriously, this state of affairs was to continue throughout A Fantasy of Dr Ox. Jules Verne is the author who catapulted me into a certain type of book, when, very young, I gobbled up Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Around the Moon, and From the Earth to the Moon in a weekend, and then everything else I could find of his in the weeks shortly afterwards. I have read Journey to the Centre of the Earth annually since this time, and I enjoy it more every year. I am, then, a confessed adorer of J. Verne, and so to happen upon this little novella of a thing today was something that all but made me jump up and down with excitement. The premise is straightforwards: a sleepy, peaceful small town is to be experimented upon by Dr. Ox and his assistant. It isn't at all long until the lazy Utopia explodes in frenzied, hilarious behaviour, which, of course, has Consequences. Verne's joyous, dialogue-light narration gathers pace as Quiquendone does, and whisks the reader right through it all in the blink of an eye. Delightfully easy reading, with more than enough vocabulary to make it feel like time well-spent, it's like going for a pint with your favourite author. Absolute class.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Gibson

    Obscure and wonderful -- and not just for Verne fans. It's a satire on bucolic life as Verne knew it in his time. Doctor Ox moves into a village that hasn't changed or made a decision about anything for 900 years. Ox's 'experiment' changes all that in a big way (including going to war with their neighbors over a cow trespass that happened 800 years earlier and no one got around to do anything about it). I actually think Verne meant this as social commentary and humor -- based on outrageous chara Obscure and wonderful -- and not just for Verne fans. It's a satire on bucolic life as Verne knew it in his time. Doctor Ox moves into a village that hasn't changed or made a decision about anything for 900 years. Ox's 'experiment' changes all that in a big way (including going to war with their neighbors over a cow trespass that happened 800 years earlier and no one got around to do anything about it). I actually think Verne meant this as social commentary and humor -- based on outrageous characters. There are also some brilliant laugh-out-loud chapter titles. This is definitely a book that needs to be more widely known. Pure pleasure to read!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ben Chandler

    A strange little tale, and quite unusually comedic for Verne, but fun enough in its own right. The premise is silly enough as to be bizarre - a quiet town of impossibly patient, indecisive and unflappable citizens whose politicians are so indecisive that they have to make decisions on whether a decision should be made are stirred up by a scientist who is stealthily conducting an experiment among them. All in all, I liked the premise and the setup as much as anything else. The outcome of the plot A strange little tale, and quite unusually comedic for Verne, but fun enough in its own right. The premise is silly enough as to be bizarre - a quiet town of impossibly patient, indecisive and unflappable citizens whose politicians are so indecisive that they have to make decisions on whether a decision should be made are stirred up by a scientist who is stealthily conducting an experiment among them. All in all, I liked the premise and the setup as much as anything else. The outcome of the plot is fairly predictable, but it's saved by a couple of nice little surprises that lifted my opinion of the story from being "okay" to "likable". Possibly the most enjoyable element is Verne's descriptions of the indecision, and the later chaos, which play nicely against each other and both exist in wonderful extremes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Akrabar

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An excellent book! One of the funniest by Jules Verne. There is also a huge social commentary which is relevant even now - all of us should pause to reflect on how belligerent we humans can become and how easily we can be swayed by the words/actions of others and enticed to act in ways we will regret later. Here are some memorable quotes from the book (plot spoiler) - "In short and in conclusion, might it be that virtue, courage, talent, intelligence, and imagination - all these qualities or facul An excellent book! One of the funniest by Jules Verne. There is also a huge social commentary which is relevant even now - all of us should pause to reflect on how belligerent we humans can become and how easily we can be swayed by the words/actions of others and enticed to act in ways we will regret later. Here are some memorable quotes from the book (plot spoiler) - "In short and in conclusion, might it be that virtue, courage, talent, intelligence, and imagination - all these qualities or faculties - are nothing but a question of oxygen?" "Well!" continued Dr. Ox, "wasn't I right? Now you can see what determines not just the physical development of a whole nation but also its morality, its dignity, its talents, its political sense! It's merely a matter of molecules ... "

  7. 4 out of 5

    Abigayle Claire

    Didn't blow me away (and took me forever to get through because it was part of a larger volume), but it was well done. Probably my first Verne to read. It reminded me a bit of Dickens in that it's a little hard to read sometimes and even tedious, but the author really knows what he's doing and it's all worth it in the end. I liked the moral complexities and point that Verne was making in the end. It's brief enough that it's worth the read to try your hand at classics, short stories, Jules Verne, Didn't blow me away (and took me forever to get through because it was part of a larger volume), but it was well done. Probably my first Verne to read. It reminded me a bit of Dickens in that it's a little hard to read sometimes and even tedious, but the author really knows what he's doing and it's all worth it in the end. I liked the moral complexities and point that Verne was making in the end. It's brief enough that it's worth the read to try your hand at classics, short stories, Jules Verne, or something of the era. The question it presents is very applicable to the moral vs biological issues of today as well.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    This is one of Verne's fun books to read. I can't really say much without giving away what the experiment is about. The book itself is unique, it was published sideways, so you turn the pages from bottom to top. It make the experience of reading it unusual. This is one of Verne's fun books to read. I can't really say much without giving away what the experiment is about. The book itself is unique, it was published sideways, so you turn the pages from bottom to top. It make the experience of reading it unusual.

  9. 4 out of 5

    ClaireEva

    I think perhaps 3.5 or maybe 3.75⭐️ This is an interesting little story and I think I like the writing in it more than some of his other works. As I look back on the story is don’t particular remember anything interesting or exciting happening but there were a lot of little gems of writing that I quite liked.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wreade1872

    Short humorous supervillain tale. Not much more to it than the concept but at least its light and funny. Similar to films like (view spoiler)[Impulse (1984) or the Crazies (hide spoiler)] but not as extreme. You know Verne has a lot of supervillains, in his books, apart from Dr. Ox and Nemo we also have Robur the Conqueror, and others in The Castle of the Carpathians, The Begum's Fortune, The Underground City and Around the World in Eighty Days... ok i can't prove that Phileas Fogg is a supervill Short humorous supervillain tale. Not much more to it than the concept but at least its light and funny. Similar to films like (view spoiler)[Impulse (1984) or the Crazies (hide spoiler)] but not as extreme. You know Verne has a lot of supervillains, in his books, apart from Dr. Ox and Nemo we also have Robur the Conqueror, and others in The Castle of the Carpathians, The Begum's Fortune, The Underground City and Around the World in Eighty Days... ok i can't prove that Phileas Fogg is a supervillian but he does have the personality of one (White Rose from Mr.Robot springs to mind) and nobody did find out where his money comes from :P .

  11. 5 out of 5

    Charles Dee Mitchell

    This is Jules Verne in a lighter mood that I have ever encountered him. In the Flemish town of Quiquendone, the pace of life is so leisurely courtships last a decade, operas cannot be performed in less that a week, and a major point of contention in an incident involving a cow from the neighboring village that occurred over 800 years ago. Dr Ox, a mysterious visitor to Quiquendone, arrives with a plan to bring gas-powered light to the town. The cautious village council members should have been m This is Jules Verne in a lighter mood that I have ever encountered him. In the Flemish town of Quiquendone, the pace of life is so leisurely courtships last a decade, operas cannot be performed in less that a week, and a major point of contention in an incident involving a cow from the neighboring village that occurred over 800 years ago. Dr Ox, a mysterious visitor to Quiquendone, arrives with a plan to bring gas-powered light to the town. The cautious village council members should have been more suspicious. To thoroughly enjoy this tale, you might need the nineteenth-century French opinion of the Flemish, but it is an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Travis

    An odd little social satire with a teaspoon of sci-fi. Verne was never really know as a humor writer, and so this was a pleasant surprise, as it raises a few chuckles and at least two laugh out loud worthy lines. Very short, more a novella than a novel and you'll figure out the mystery waaaay before the big reveal. Dr. Ox is an interesting character, even though he spends most of the book off stage. Shame Verne never used him in any other books. An odd little social satire with a teaspoon of sci-fi. Verne was never really know as a humor writer, and so this was a pleasant surprise, as it raises a few chuckles and at least two laugh out loud worthy lines. Very short, more a novella than a novel and you'll figure out the mystery waaaay before the big reveal. Dr. Ox is an interesting character, even though he spends most of the book off stage. Shame Verne never used him in any other books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Orrezz

    An interesting allegory, much thanks to its concise and cynical style. However its message is not perfectly clear, maybe bacuase of its simplicity. If an entire town went crazy because of strange gaz, it doesn't really tell much of the human race... maybe about its enviornment An interesting allegory, much thanks to its concise and cynical style. However its message is not perfectly clear, maybe bacuase of its simplicity. If an entire town went crazy because of strange gaz, it doesn't really tell much of the human race... maybe about its enviornment

  14. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    Much more dull than I'd expected. The Librivox narrator was good though. Much more dull than I'd expected. The Librivox narrator was good though.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Evan Snyder

    Interesting little thinker about the origin of passion and emotion, and the consequences, both positive (art, progress) and negative (war, violence).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mymagicbooks

    very good book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ceren

    Only good thing about this book is the author.The book lacks a strong purpose for the events developing in it which makes it kinda dull and pointless.While reading it,you constantly think what's the point(because there are little hints that it's gonna have a meaningful explanation) only to find out there is literally no strong meaning/point at all.Disappointing Only good thing about this book is the author.The book lacks a strong purpose for the events developing in it which makes it kinda dull and pointless.While reading it,you constantly think what's the point(because there are little hints that it's gonna have a meaningful explanation) only to find out there is literally no strong meaning/point at all.Disappointing

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ahmet Ali

    The book was short and not quite fluent, it was pleasant for jules verne to address the reader directly from time to time. At the end of the events, one cannot help but question whether all of humanity is a part of such an experiment. An amusing criticism of social turmoil. Would it be healthier otherwise, that is unknown.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gentian Gashi

    I haven't smiled because of a book in a long while, but this did it for me. A wonderful novella that's comical and very meaningful. It is as fantastical as it is realistic. So much about human behavior is determined by our chemical composition, by tiny molecules inside our bodies. It takes real work to realize that and be able to see the bigger picture. A true ode to the human condition. I haven't smiled because of a book in a long while, but this did it for me. A wonderful novella that's comical and very meaningful. It is as fantastical as it is realistic. So much about human behavior is determined by our chemical composition, by tiny molecules inside our bodies. It takes real work to realize that and be able to see the bigger picture. A true ode to the human condition.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kannazuki

    Jules Verne... He is my childhood. Always curios always enjoyable..

  21. 5 out of 5

    Manon

    Very funny!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    Not a typical Jules Verne masterpiece where one falls in awe of the abundance of imagination the author offers but a pleasant and short read that occasionally draws a smile out of the reader.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kayra Üçkılınç

    Jules Verne was an exceptional man in his time. This short book can show his dedication to science. Not a masterpiece but a cute short-story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Not a terrible, short little read, but nothing I would go out of my to recommend, compared to Verne's other books. Not a terrible, short little read, but nothing I would go out of my to recommend, compared to Verne's other books.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gürkan Karadağ

    It is a weak story by Jules Verne's standards. It is a weak story by Jules Verne's standards.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Benn Allen

    Jules Verne's novels are often regarded as children's lit. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", "Around the World In a Day", "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth" are often found on the Young Adult/Children's shelves. Personally, having read "20,000 Leagues" in Jr. High and again as a an adult, I can say I got more out of it as an adult than a teenager. I suspect Verne's books have more depth than they're given credit for. But if there was ever a Jules Verne tale that should be classified as children Jules Verne's novels are often regarded as children's lit. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", "Around the World In a Day", "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth" are often found on the Young Adult/Children's shelves. Personally, having read "20,000 Leagues" in Jr. High and again as a an adult, I can say I got more out of it as an adult than a teenager. I suspect Verne's books have more depth than they're given credit for. But if there was ever a Jules Verne tale that should be classified as children's lit/Young Adult, it's this one, "A Fantasy of Dr Ox". I say that not because it's a bad book, per se. But it seems to be one of Verne's least developed works. The novella is spare and sketchy and the science woefully bad. (I don't think breathing pure oxygen would have the effect it does in the book, not on humans, animals nor plants. Worse, Verne seems unaware of or simply chose to ignore how highly flammable pure oxygen is. The minute somebody lights a match, the entire village of Quiquendone would become one giant fireball. Verne wouldn't need to resort to an explosion being caused by an accidental mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. I'm not even sure mixing those two would cause anything but water.) It's the least convincing science of Verne's science fiction stories. Still, "A Fantasy of Dr Ox" is a light, amusing bit of a story. Fairly charming, but not one of Jules Verne's classic works. If I have any strong criticisms with the book, it's the fact that Hesperus Pres hired Gilbert Adair to write the foreword for "A Fantasy of Dr Ox". That's because Adair is a terrible choice. That's because is someone who openly - within his own foreword! - sneers at Science Fiction. He finds "virtually all of science fiction indigestible". Adair admits proponents of sf champion the genre as being ideal for using "thinly camouflaged parable(s)" to address "a host of contentious issues". He'll even accept that notion "provided it is never tested on (him)". (Presumably by making him read or watch sf.) Worse is his idiotic idea "... that a work of science fiction may be judged of interest and significance *only* if it remains readable after the passing of the date in which its action is set (as with Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", to take the most obvious example); hence, by extension, that all 'futuristic' novels are in fact best read *only* after years, ideally centuries, have elapsed since their original publication". What a fucking snob! What results is a foreword that damns with faint praise the book. It's a critique and introduction by someone who does not know, much less understand Science Fiction and has no business pontificating on the matter. Honestly, I found Adair's foreword to be highly insulting. To a degree that I had to deduct a star from my rating of this book. So, yeah, skip the foreword and read the novella. (It's only 83 long anyway.) It's not great Jules Verne, but it's a fun read anyhow.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lautaro Lobo

    Beautiful. Fun. A lovely read for a weekend :)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Filip

    I used to love Jules Verne's books when I was younger. I am getting back to them now and I am starting to worry I loved them just because Verne is a famous author. That fact may have made me feel like I was supposed to love his books and stories. So I did without trully loving them from heart. But then again... so far I re-read just Tajemství Viléma Storitze (published after author's death, feels very unfinished and I did not like it at all) and Doktor Ox. So who knows, maybe when I'll get to th I used to love Jules Verne's books when I was younger. I am getting back to them now and I am starting to worry I loved them just because Verne is a famous author. That fact may have made me feel like I was supposed to love his books and stories. So I did without trully loving them from heart. But then again... so far I re-read just Tajemství Viléma Storitze (published after author's death, feels very unfinished and I did not like it at all) and Doktor Ox. So who knows, maybe when I'll get to the best known Verne's works, I might find my love for his books again. The Doktor Ox seemed to me much better than Tajemství Viléma Storitze. It isn't exceptionally clever or anything, but it reads quite fast and makes a reader laught a few times. Light read for a lazy weekend afternoon. Nothing less, nothing more.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was a pretty interesting story, although the stuff that wasn't the meat of the plot, I thought was kind of hard to follow. Reading it a second time would probably change that. It's an interesting idea (for a story—not real life), experimenting on a village of people like that. I tend to think, however, that even if the experiment would have such an effect on people, that when it ended it would still have long-lasting effects, rather than go back to normal in an instant. A change in behavior, This was a pretty interesting story, although the stuff that wasn't the meat of the plot, I thought was kind of hard to follow. Reading it a second time would probably change that. It's an interesting idea (for a story—not real life), experimenting on a village of people like that. I tend to think, however, that even if the experiment would have such an effect on people, that when it ended it would still have long-lasting effects, rather than go back to normal in an instant. A change in behavior, for whatever reason, can make it easier to do things differently even when that reason is gone (though the severity may or may not be the same). I like how the author expressed faith in humanity at the end of the story, basically saying that he didn't think the way it happened in his story was how it was in real life—or some such. It also made me wonder about the purpose of the story. I don't think a change in chemicals will force us to make certain decisions, although I do believe they can give us incentive, or very strong urges toward those decisions. Anyway, this seemed pretty familiar for some reason. Maybe I heard something about it once.

  30. 4 out of 5

    TrumanCoyote

    Fun--kind of like a hit of nitrous oxide. But awfully slight to be a book--and topical (I assume this is all a lampoon of the Prussian invasion--published in 1872 like it was). And the phlegmatic Flemish town and townsfolk were very very very phlegmatic indeed. Still, the last line but one is a hoot (in a snide kind of way): "Might it be that virtue, courage, talent, intelligence and imagination--all these qualities or faculties--are nothing but a question of oxygen?" Maybe I should challenge hi Fun--kind of like a hit of nitrous oxide. But awfully slight to be a book--and topical (I assume this is all a lampoon of the Prussian invasion--published in 1872 like it was). And the phlegmatic Flemish town and townsfolk were very very very phlegmatic indeed. Still, the last line but one is a hoot (in a snide kind of way): "Might it be that virtue, courage, talent, intelligence and imagination--all these qualities or faculties--are nothing but a question of oxygen?" Maybe I should challenge him to a duel over that...reminds me of somebody (Berryman maybe) complaining that all his angst and anguish may just be something like a salt deficiency--and torturing himself further over that (talk about looneys clinging to their madness).

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