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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Paperback – 4 February 2003
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More than a marvelously thrilling drama, this classic novel, written in 1870, foretells with uncanny accuracy the inventions and advanced technology of the twentieth century and has become a literary stepping-stone for generations of science fiction writers.
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Ships in the middle of the ocean are suddenly seeing -- and being attacked by -- "a long object, spindle-shaped, occasionally phosphorescent, and infinitely larger and more rapid in its movements than a whale."
Eventually the US government sends out a ship to capture the object, and during a sea battle Professor Aronnax, his manservant Conseil and harpooner Ned Land go overboard. Soon they're picked up by the Nautilus, the vast submarine that has been causing all this trouble, and introduced to Captain Nemo -- an intelligent, charismatic man who belongs to no nation.
Aronnax becomes fascinated by Nemo, his ship and his library -- as well as the amazing underwater adventures that Nemo introduces them to, like pearl-hunting and fighting a giant squid. But the captain's free, lawless life has its dark side, and the three men begin to realize that they must get away from the Nautilus no matter what.
It's actually rather amazing that Jules Verne not only dreamed up the idea of a semi-modern submarine long before they existed, but thought out the applications, the stealth, and the vast size. And since nothing like the Nautilus existed at the time, there's a slightly fantastical, steampunk flavor to "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
And as usual, Verne painstakingly studies everything about his imagined world, filling it with science (although he obviously didn't know about water/air pressure) and lovely descriptions of the Nautilus and the eerie underwater world (giant oysters, forests, Atlantis). The only flaw is that he tends to ramble on about exact measurements and travel details; there are boring patches here and there.
But Captain Nemo is probably one of Verne's most fascinating characters -- a charismatic, embittered man who is a sort of noble sea pirate. He does some stuff that is totally unacceptable (sinking a random warship), but he also has little spurts of kindness and generosity towards poor and powerless peoples of the world. He's scary but fascinating.
Giant submarines, charismatic pirates and an undersea world just waiting to be explored -- "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" is a fascinating sci-fi classic, if you can get past the dull patches.
Top international reviews
I wasn't disappointed. He is clearly a fantastic writer.
If you want a book that doesn't dwell on the details this isn't for you. He can elongate any story which now days would take only a few paragraphs to explain but somehow that doesn't matter because the way clarity in which he describes just makes it worth it.
A book I will read again, and again.
The story itself is actually pretty good. I really felt that the settings felt a little futuristic even all this time later, although possibly a little steam-punkish because the primary power of the day was of course iron and steam!
Verne wanders into too much description of the classifications of fish and the characters do seem to catch and eat every living thing they come across. Those parts were a little dull, but the main story is really quite gripping with some fantastic 'how will they get out alive?' moments!
I haven't quite finished the book because I am a lazy reader, but for this price the entertainment value is unbeatable.
But the story is a classic, from start to end, and you dont feel that it is over 100 years ago that it was written it still reads well.