20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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.

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geekcoupletab

We're Tab and Cam-just a goofy, geeky couple exploring each other's interests from comic books, board games, video games, TV and movies. Join us in misadventures of learning to accept one's obsession with Magic the Gathering and the other's admiration for Steampunk décor.

16 thoughts on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”

  1. I have never read 20,000 Leagues under the sea so I never knew what the story was about. Now I might have to go hunt down the book and read it. I know what you mean by long winded, and sometimes a really good story can be ruined by too much detail. Great book review.

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      1. Yes, I have nonfiction books, fiction books, saved places in ereaders, and paperbacks. When I forget to bring along my ereader, I usually have a paperback. I like reading classics, but then I get distracted by a new book or wanting to learn more about something in current events. Regardless, I am compulsive about finishing what I start…even if it is 8 months later.

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  2. I love your point about descriptive points in the book, any book actually, that focus on a time period so far from where we are now, but with the use of factual info for that time. Of course we have learned so much, and whatever was fact then is long been overshadowed or overridden that classic stories can seem trite. It’s hard to simply appreciate the story for what it was when it was written and not just sit back and ponder all the inaccuracy 🙂

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    1. Yes, exactly! I need to simply learn to appreciate it anyway, for the story. I just really wish there was more focus on the professor. He was held captive by Nemo, but still enjoyed his adventure

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  3. I’m not sure which book version you read, but the vast majority of editions of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea translated to English were censored–not abridged for length but censored because of highly charged political and moral commentary woven throughout the original. In 1976, Thomas Y. Crowell Company published what they touted as “The only completely restored and annotated edition” at the time. I own and have read this version, and it is, effectively, as if you are reading a different book. What is fantastic about the Crowell edition (out of print but easily gotten on eBay) is that it places all originally cut text in brackets, so the reader can see, page by page, what is restored. It is an understatement to say that, with censor’s cut’s the book was gutted. In that sense, the description you reference might seem long-winded. The intellectual substance of the full original is startling, though, and I think it puts the descriptive elements of the text in a proper proportion. It is simply one of the finest books I have read–simply magical–and I did not want it to end. If you read a cut version, I would strongly urge you to find the Crowell edition and read it again.

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