Monday, 10 November 2014

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne


When a mysterious sea creature appears and begins terrorising shipping routes, the world renown marine biologist Dr. Pierre Aronnax joins an expedition to find and slay the beast. Yet Pierre's ship meets the same fate as so many before it and he finds himself aboard the Nautilus in the custody of the strange and elusive Captain Nemo. Along with his friends - his faithful manservant, Conseil, and Ned Land, the famous Canadian whaler - Pierre embarks on a journey of discovery that shows just how little he actually knows about the ocean and the wonders within it.

The Good
One of the best things about Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was how Jules Verne managed to instil such an air of mystery over something so simple as a submarine journey. Submarines had yet to take to the seas when the book was written (and might not even have been conceived of!) and the idea of men travelling around under water was a novelty in itself. But Verne improved on this by making the world unaware of Captain Nemo's visionary breakthrough and never let slip what Nemo planned or what would happen next. This makes the book a remarkable story of adventure that few authors have matched since.

The Bad
One of the biggest surprises Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea had for me was in how little actually happens! Considering it's a science fiction classic, I was expecting it to be much more exciting than it was and the book is filled with pages upon pages of Verne describing marine creatures and their taxonomy. This could have been interesting if it was in smaller doses, but was pretty boring and bulked out a book that should really have been written as a novella.

I complain about this, but Verne's description of the ocean world might have been much more impressive when the book was first published. Obviously, many people were not educated as we are now and they didn't have the documentaries, textbooks and photographs that we have today, allowing free access to information about these creatures. Maybe this was the worth of the book, rather than its plot and excitement; maybe Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea allowed people to glimpse a world they would never know or see . . .

My Thoughts
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was much longer than it needed to be, which did make it a bit boring in places and it certainly wasn't a page turner (and I actually took quite a while to finish it). That being said, it was a story ahead of its time and really captures Verne's remarkable imagination.

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