"The chiefs are armed with muskets," said he, "and our balloon is too easy a mark for them."rn rn "Would a hole make us fall?" asked Joe.rn rn "Not immediately; but the hole would soon become a vast rent, through which all our gas would escape."rn rn "Then let us keep at a respectful distance. What can they think of us? I'm sure they want to worship us!"rn rn "We will let ourselves be worshipped," answered the doctor, "but from afar..."rn 13.5013.5013.50rn rn First published in France in 1863, this is the first of Jules Verne's novels of imaginative adventures. Much more down to earth-figuratively, if not literally-than his later works, his heroes here encounter no lost civilizations, no anachronistic dinosaurs, and no extraordinary perils beyond that which actual explorers of the era might have met on a balloon voyage across the Dark Continent. rn rn An inspiration to generations of writers and readers, Verne's fiction remains compelling and thoroughly enjoyable today.rn rn French author JULES GABRIEL VERNE (1828-1905) is considered the father of modern science fiction. Among his many groundbreaking books are Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872).