on May 14, 2016
I liked this waaaay better than Journey to the Center of the Earth. Despite being so old, the science is not that inaccurate. In Journey to the Center of the Earth the science was so outdated it was practically unreadable to me. Jules Verne focused on facts and details to make it feel real. The fact that they are trying to hunt down a mythical beast is not that far fetched because "Either we know every variety of creature populating our planet or we do not." (pg 13) Math, names, dates, latitude and longitude, and news stories were all details that lent a lot of realism to this fictional story. There's a strange fantasy feel to the ocean, this amazing part of our planet that we are still trying to understand.
The action in the plot starts right away and moves pretty fast for a classic. It does slow down in the middle because you are supposed to be in shock and awe about breathing under water and I was sadly not shocked by that. The voyages of the Nautilus follow up unfinished stories of real life explorers again adding this cool realism in fictional way.
It feels like steampunk even though it's not. Or is it? Because everything is powered by electricity, not steam, but the technology is so charmingly old and everything is made of metal...Well steampunk or not, the tech in this book is cool. I loved the disbelief when they discover that Captain Nemo's ship is powered by electricity. It made me laugh at how adorable they are all being until I realize THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN BEFORE ELECTRICITY WAS A THING. And then I'm impressed at the author's imagination and how well he predicted things. And then I laugh when someone gets shocked. It's a cycle between humor and awe (but mostly humor).
I loved the characters. The unflappable Conseil. The usually-pissed-off Ned Land. He was my favorite. The mysterious Captain Nemo who is very environmentally friendly and save the whales which made him seem very odd to everyone else. I thought he was pretty cool and modern. The main character is...eh. I can't even remember his name. So he would probably be the exception to the interesting characters award for this book.
As I was listening to the unabridged audiobook, I would want to look up things in my kindle version and that's when I realized that most of the novels of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea are abridged. The abridged version probably leaves out the lists and lists of fish that they see in the ocean. So many lists. So many fish. But listening to the lists on audiobook actually gave it this beautiful and mysterious atmosphere. Reading it unabridged might result in skimming of fish names. I highly recommend the audiobook.
I love Jules Verne. I loved his books as a kid and I love them now.
AS a kid, 20,000 League Under the Sea was one of my absolute favorites. I remember being glued to the pages. My mother thought I was sick because I never showed that much enthusiasm for reading as a kid. Unfortunately, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea didn't hold up for me over the years. I recently picked it up again to give it a go as an adult. It just read so slow.
Maybe this is a product of me living in a world more advanced than Jules Verne even imagined. Whatever the reason, the magic just wasn't there for 20,000 Leagues as an adult.
I still have the utmost respect for this book. As the pure science fiction it was when first written it's absolutely amazing. It just doesn't captivate me anymore after having been on real submarines (including one called The Nautilus, named for the vessel of Verne's writings, docked as a museum in Connecticut) the sci fi book about futuristic submarines that are less powerful than real subs that have long since outlived their service life just doesn't stay magic.
This made me sad. But at the same time, it doesn't take away my great memories of reading it as a kid. Nor do I think it will hamper my kids' love of 20,000 Leagues as they don't know anything about real submarines.
Oddly though, Around the World in 80 days is still a great read even though I can easily circumnavigate the world I about 48 hours for the price of a few plane tickets today. Outgrowing the writings of another era is hit or miss, I guess.
"The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence."
Professor Pierre Arronax and his assistant, Conseil, join the crew of the Abraham Lincoln to chase down this strange ocean mammal that has been destroying ships. The duo, along with harpooner Ned Land, end up overboard and rescued by what is revealed to be a submarine, not a mammal. This submarine is captained by Nemo, a mysterious man who has eschewed the land in preference to roaming the open seas. Nemo takes the trio twenty thousand leagues across the seas - from the Pacific to the Indian to the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Along the way, Arronax uncovers bits and pieces about his captain and catalogs the various fish he sees.
Jules Verne is basically the Father of Science Fiction. His novels - such as "Twenty Thousand Leagues" - were groundbreaking for their time. I'd go so far to say that if it weren't for him, we wouldn't have the science fiction genre at all.
That said, this book was supremely dry and dull most of the time. Yes, it is "hard science fiction" with lots of attention to detail to the mechanics of underwater "sailing" (some of which is incredibly on the mark; others, such as the lamp lighting the way of the Nautilus, laughable and out-dated), but there comes a point when enough is enough. This is particularly prevalent when Arronax/Verne spends multiple pages describing the flora and fauna of the sea in intricate detail ("cataloging fish" into their species and genus) or having long conversations with other characters about irrelevant history (such as the electric cable stretching from the Americas to Ireland).
Again, I greatly appreciate the attention to detail and the thought Verne put into the operation of the Nautilus. That isn't my problem. And I don't mind some detail about the sights Arronax sees while traveling. But the latter in particular "sinks" the story. And when the story is as diluted and sparse as it is here, that is nearly a death warrant.
The majority of this novel reads as a travelogue, Google Maps directions, an account of someone's rather dull vacation. While there are a few scenes that are particularly interesting (the journey to the Antarctic and nearly being trapped underwater, a way too short squid attack, and some walking underwater scenes), by far most of the book is cataloging fish or boring "and on Mar 21st, we sailed from X in Y direction to Z". Yawn. What makes this is even more ridiculous is that Arronax, Ned Land, and Conseil are supposedly held prisoner aboard the Nautilus, so they do not leave and divulge its secrets elsewhere, but no one seems to care about being held against their will until suddenly they are. I'd say "Stockholm Syndrome", only they give a half-hearted struggle when Captain Nemo tells them they are stuck on the ship. Based on how it is written and how little concern these characters have to their captivity, I don't know why Verne didn't just have Captain Nemo invite Arronax to journey with him and maybe decide that he didn't WANT them to leave.
The only (and by far the best) character in this book is Captain Nemo. Sure, there is Arronax, Conseil, and Ned Land, but calling them "characters" is a stretch, unless you are using the most generous of definitions of "character". Arronax is probably the best of the trio. He has some moments of humor (as a side note, there is quite a bit of humor, and it is well applied and a good break from the blandness of most of the text) and has a complicated relationship with Nemo. Ned Land would be next. His sole character trait is wanting to kill anything that moves - whales, kangaroo, tigers, you name it. Pretty much any time he appears in the story, it's to talk about wanting to kill something or escape (and honestly, he doesn't even CONSIDER escape until the last 75% of the novel). The absolute worst character, in my opinion, is Conseil. The guy makes Saltine Crackers look like they aren't bland. If you want a cold, blindly loyal servant, this is your man.
But I hesitate to blame this lack of characterization on Verne's skill as an author or the standard "But it's hard scifi, not a character study!", particularly when you have the complex character of Captain Nemo. What the other characters aren't, Captain Nemo is. Apparently, something bad happened to his wife and his children - something bad enough to make him abandon the land all together and sail in his boat, enacting revenge on passing ships. But he isn't a cold blooded killer - he stays Ned Land's hand, when Ned wants to harpoon a bunch of whales for the hell of it. (Of course, not more than a couple of paragraphs later, Nemo then slaughters a bunch of "sperm whales", so calling the guy a hypocrite is definitely in order.)
So the story is meh, the characters are meh, and the descriptions are overboard. Part of that is just me not really being that hot on the book (my dad, a retired Navy submariner, and my sister both ADORE this book and think I am mad for not). That's only a small part of "Twenty Thousand Leagues". The more important part - and the reason I think that any fan of scifi should read this book - is its influence on the genre. This is the great-great-great-great grandfather of novels like "Ender's Game" and "2001: A Space Odyssey". So in that regard, this book is priceless - it gives me a better respect for the genre I love.
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on April 19, 2014
The idea of sailing the seas in a submarine would have been amazing and exciting when Jules Verne wrote this book, but now in the 21st century when this is an everyday thing the book has lost its appeal. Unlike his other well-known book, The Mysterious Island, this one didn't have that much of a plot, other than the submarine story. I love reading classics, and really enjoyed the other aforementioned book, but not this one. There are pages of lengthy descriptions of fish, plants, coral, etc. which gets tiresome after a while. I recommend you skip this one, and read Verne's other book.