The theory is that every Jules Verne book can be summarised by its title. Thus in Around The World In 80 Days, the world is traversed in the time limit suggested. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth described the trip perfectly. And guess how long is spent in a balloon in Five Weeks In A Balloon?

Which makes the title of A Fantasy Of Doctor Ox a touch disappointing. It is tricky to work out what this fantasy actually is from the title alone. Luckily it is not too much bother to read the whole thing as it rocks in at under eighty pages, and even as a short story the basic idea seems stretched. We have the Flemish town of Quiquendone which in some form of poor satire is a dull and slow town. No-one ever argues, no-one ever rushes, musical performances regularly take four times longer than they should. But things change when the good Dr Ox fits some new pipes for a gas powered lighting. Suddenly the towns passions are inflamed, arguments start, punch-ups ensue and they almost go to war. What is the secret?

The secret is no secret due to Verne’s literalist turn of phrase. Yes it may be unclear what the mysterious Dr Ox has been pumping through the pipes, until you consider his assistant. Name: Ygene. Hmm, this isn’t a twist that was well hidden is it. Verne has discovered that if people breath pure oxygen they get a bit giddy. He still had not discovered at this point that if you want to tell a good story, you don’t give characters stupid names which give the bloody twist away.