Tuesday, 7 February 2012

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

I'm still on the victorian classics here (thanks to a Goodreads bookclub challenge) and have at least two more to go!

This book is written in the first person narrative of Professor Arronax as it follows the journey that he and his two friends Conseil (his manservant) and Ned Land (a Canadian harpooner) take as captive guests on board the fearsome Captain Nemo's 'Nautilus'.

The book starts in 1866 when something, commonly believed to be a creature of the deep, terrorising the shipping world. The professor is invited to join a ship setting off to hunt down this creature and there makes the acquaintance of the fiery harpoonist. What follows is a struggle between boat and creature that is actually a highly sophisticated submarine vessel, whereupon our three characters end up on top of the Nautilus.

The three men are then to become unwilling guests of the captain of this vessel, Captain Nemo, with the promise that he will never let them leave the Nautilus now that they know so much about it. The Captain is a mysterious man of unknown origins who has refused to ever set foot on land or rely on anything that has origins on dry land. This leads to some very interesting sounding meals in the book and a technology that is far ahead of it's time.

In a bid not to spoil this book for anyone who has yet to read it I will say that it takes the reader on a journey around the world, seeing different wonders of the ocean and joining in with the characters at their times of admiration as well as fears at what hides beneath the oceans. Trust me, sometimes you find yourself wanting to take journeys to some of these places just to see if what's said is true!

Written in 1869, Jules Verne's masterpiece was really ahead of  it's time with the idea of the Nautilus having on it a device to create electricity through the power of the sea, not to mention the Nautilus itself with the power of electricity and the means of keeping her supplied wityh oxygen. At the time of it's writing it must have seemed rather intriguing to the common reader.

I enjoyed this book in as much as the idea is a great one that has withstood the test of time and the writing is, at times, absolutely riveting. However, I did find that there were a lot of unnecessary stops in the story to allow paragraph upon paragraph of detail and description. this may have been intriguing to the reader of the time but now it stops the flow and just started to put me off reading.

This is a true classic and I believe everyone should take the time to read it - but be prepared to have to plough on through lots of detailed descriptions and some old-fashioned opinions at certain times.

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