Jules Verne is one of my favorite authors. He was writing steampunk before steampunk was steampunk. He possessed a wild imagination that brought to life the Nautilus and the creatures of the ocean floor.
The story centers on Professor Aronnax as our narrator, guiding us as he is captive abroad the underwater vessel the Nautilus. He, his assistant Conseil, and a harpoonist Ned Land are thrown overboard at the beginning of the story on their hunt for a mysterious giant squid. To their surprise, the giant squid they believe they’ve found is actually a submarine created and lived in by Captain Nemo.
Captain Nemo is the most interesting character in the story. He seems content never being on land. He’s always moving, as his vessel explores the ocean the world over while keeping Prof Aronnax and company. While reading, I constantly went back and forth over whether or not I trusted Nemo. He’s a mysterious man who only gives information about himself and his past on his own terms. Due to his preference to stay unknown (and perhaps due to constant paranoia of being found out), he refuses to release his captives, and they must tag along in his underwater adventures.
Overall, I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed the narration by Prof Aronnax, but I believe the story suffers from long-winded descriptions of the vessel itself and the unusual underwater flora and fauna. Understandably, he is a marine biologist and wants to document all that he sees and experiences, but I grew tire of the pages and pages of descriptions of submarine life.
Perhaps that is where the story doesn’t hold up to the current times. At the time of its publication, what lay on the sea floor was as unknown as outer space is now. There is still much we don’t know about either, but I think scientific discovery has dated the story. It just doesn’t bring as much wonder and awe as it probably did at publication.