Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne
(Puffin Classics: 1995)

First published in French in 1870.

READ: September-November 2006

A 19th-century classic. Through a strange twist of fate, Professor Aronnax and two companions, his man-servant Conseil and a French Canadian (!) harpooner (whaler) called Ned Land, journey to the deepest, darkest depths of the sea with the elusive Captain Nemo on his fantastic submarine, Nautilus. It's a fantastic journey, but the reading is not for those who want their stories told quickly: the Professor is a noted marine biologist, and he wastes no opportunity to minutely detail every creature of the sea that he encounters.

However, the story itself is entertaining, and while I don't know Verne's background (nor have I read anything else by him - an oversight I should correct someday), I admire the level of work and research that must have gone into the writing of this tale. While submarines did exist when Verne wrote this, many of the features of Nautilus were not yet possible, and his imagination has to be admired. Finally, I found the political vision of Captain Nemo, a man who has turned his back on most of mankind, to be fairly un-Victorian, giving the book an interesting resonance for contemporary times (at least for me). Besides, if nothing else, this book was worth reading just to see how the 19th-century French viewed their provincial Canadian cousins.

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