Monday, February 22, 2016
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Posted by JaneGS
I've heard of Jules Verne and his many adventure/sci fi novels forever, but since sci fi has never really been a genre I've warmed to, I've steered clear of them. However, I decided to rise to the challenge of the Back to the Classics challenge for 2016 and try to read something in both the adventure and sci fi categories. And, since 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea figured so prominently in All the Light We Cannot See, which I enjoyed so much in January, I decided to tackle it as my next classic.
I wish I could say that it has converted me to Victorian sci fi, but alas that is not the case. I found it tedious. Maybe I'm not just a creature of the deep, but hearing Professor Aronnax describe the weirdness under the sea, from Atlantis to giant attack squids to coral cemeteries to underwater volcanos, just didn't float my boat, so to speak.
What I really wanted was backstory and character development. I was so frustrated at the end to not hear why Captain Nemo abandoned land for the sea--we caught a tantalizing glimpse of a wife and children, but I have no idea what happened to them and how he first came to build the Nautilus, the submarine in which he and his crew circumnavigate the world under water. Who built it, when was it launched, who were the crew?
And then there's Ned Land--yes, he's a harpooner on whaling ships, but apart from being from Quebec and missing it, who is he? And Conseil, the professor's slavish servant--what's his story? Why is he so devoted to Aronnax?
It's a really a one-note story--we see another world, there are some adventures, and then Aronnax, Conseil, and Ned Land escape from the Nautilus. Talk about a let down!
While I was reading this, I kept on thinking that a really good annotated version might have made this more enjoyable. I think I would have enjoyed reading about what Verne got right with regards to his science and what was completely fabricated and off base. However, I'm not tempted to do another run-through with an annotated version. Too many other great books out there unread to do that.
I had been toying with the idea of reading Around the World in Eighty Days, but I think I've had my fill of Jules Verne.