twenty thousand leagues book cover

Book Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Extraordinary Voyages, #6)Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne My rating: 3 of 5 stars Melancholy. That’s the word I’d think best describes this book because that is the work which describes its principal character, Captain Nemo. Though Monsier Arronax is the narrator and present in each scene he is overshadowed by the brooding master of the Nautilus. Nemo is certainly a compelling character. And though details of his life do trickle out slowly over the course of the story he remains largely a mystery even at the end. And I think that is what diminishes the book somewhat. Yes, we eventually do find out the reasons which drive his quest for vengeance, but we do not find out who his enemy’s are and many of the details of his life never come to light. In some ways this works to build up Nemo’s character and makes him stand out in the literary world as a tragic figure, but in another sense it’s disappointing as a reader that we never truly understand this enigmatic man. As I mentioned before, Nemo really takes center stage in this book. The other characters serve merely as passive windows for us to hope to get a glimpse at him. Arronax and his companions, the salty harpooner Ned Land, and Arronax’s servant the likable Conseil are certainly interesting to some extent, perhaps Ned Land mores than the other two, but they never seem to pull the reader in. And while Arronax’s lengthy descriptions of marine flora and fauna are impressive and lend to the overall atmosphere of wonder and exploration which pervades the story, at times they come off as little better than reading a science textbook. Aside from the characters, the “science fiction” elements of the book are rather interesting. For though submarine travel is common place today, one can only imagine the reaction this book must have engendered in readers when it came out in 1870. Things like electricity, cordless diving suits, and all of the wonders of the Nautilus itself must have seemed purely exotic as would the descriptions of the many underwater environments Verne wrote about. That wondrous quality is still there despite the datedness of the technology and I think that is to Verne’s credit. You do still feel drawn to Nemo’s ship and wish you could see it and ride in it as Arronax did. For, though we know such ships exist in this day by the thousands, very few of us have ever seen one much less ridden in one. Verne does a fine job of making us realize just what a marvel such ships truly are. So an enjoyable story, one that draws you along slowly through the sea, but one which ultimately feels as if its harpoon misses the mark. I wish I could have learned more about Captain Nemo, but even after finishing the book he remains as impenetrable, disturbed, and dark as the seas in which he chose to travel. View all my reviews Author DJ Edwardson's seal of approval

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