20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne

My husband is quite the fan of sci-fi, so I thought I’d give it a go.

My main concern with 20,000 Leagues is that it’s a little too much ‘sci’ and not quite enough ‘fi’! That is, there are pages upon pages of scientific information, descriptions of underwater species and listings coordinates that make this book very believable but not hugely action-packed. So it got a little boring.

I suppose that is the true drawcard to this book, however. Jules Verne wrote it in 1869 before a lot of the science was actually discovered. It is amazing what he predicted in this novel. He wrote of an electric powered submarine vessel far superior in technology to any that could have existed in his time, and he explains how it functions in minute detail.

In a nutshell: our narrator is scientist Pierre Arronax, who joins a ship’s crew in search of a giant sea creature.Once the creature is found however, M. Arronax falls overboard only to find himself on a submarine vessel called the Nautilus (not a sea creature after all). He, his manservant Conseil and shipmate Ned Land all find themselves onboard and eventually meet the vessel’s captain, Nemo.

Captain Nemo is a strange character who displays all the qualities of an intelligent and respectful gentlemen, however he has huge issues with humankind, so has exiled himself away from any governance, forming his own private kingdom and existence in his submarine under the sea. Clearly he experienced the loss of his wife and children through some kind of malicious act from the human species, so he segregates himself purposely and positions himself as an enemy, eventually purposely sinking an entire ship of men to die in the sea.

We experience M. Arronax and his friends’ journey around the ocean, the underwater expeditions they take part in and the strange creatures they encounter. The ocean is portrayed as a beautiful and hidden world of its own. Verne clearly had some strong feelings towards the sea, as he writes from Nemo’s point of view:

I love it! The sea is everything. It covers seven-tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides. The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the ‘Living Infinite’, as one of your poets has said.

So, like I said, I found this book a little boring, but it had its moments. I expect it would be very interesting to scientists, marine biologists and people who just generally like sci-fi as a genre 🙂

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