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review 2016-02-19 23:51
Review of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne,Anthony Bonner

Somewhat surprisingly, I really enjoyed this book. I am always wary of reading old science fiction as you never know how well it would age, but I thought this was really well done. Like most 19th century French authors, Verne does get carried away with the descriptions (I may have nightmares about how many different types of mollusks there are in the world). However, imagining reading this at the time it was published, I am sure the reader would greatly appreciate the descriptions of a world they would likely never see. There was enough action and mystery to please even a modern day reader.

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review 2015-11-19 00:00
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne,Anthony Bonner “Under the sea
Under the sea
When the sardine
Begin the beguine
It's music to me
What do they got? A lot of sand
We got a hot crustacean band
Each little clam here
know how to jam here
Under the sea”

- Sebastian the groovy Caribbean Crab

The perfect soundtrack for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas really. I bet Captain Nemo wishes he’d thought of it.

The direct translation of the full title of this here book is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: An Underwater Tour of the World*, note the S at the end of “Seas” also, the tour spans multiple seas you know. The book really is what it says on the tin, a large part of it book reads like a travelogue with more marine biology infodumps than I know what to do with. This aspect of it is a little like [b: Moby-Dick|153747|Moby-Dick; or, The Whale|Herman Melville|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327940656s/153747.jpg|2409320]*, the difference is that Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (eff the extended title) is much more accessible and less dry (haha!). The version I read is translated from the original French by F. P. Walter with an excellent introduction by Mr. Walter that is informative, not too long and creates a nice sense of anticipation.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, as you probably already know, is the adventure of Professor Pierre Aronnax, his ridiculously faithful servant Conseil, and the ruff 'n' tuff, love-em-and-leave-em, wham-bam-thank you-maam, Ned “Is that a harpoon or are you just happy to see me” Land. That sentence went on so long I train of thought has derailed... Oh yes! The adventures of the above-mentioned fellows in the Nautilus, a super-submarine captained by the mysterious Nemo***. Basically, Prof Aronnax and co go hunting for a creature they believe to be a mega-whale which they believe to have sunk several ships in the ocean and has to be stopped. As luck would have it, their own ship is sunk and the creature they are hunting turns out to be the high-tech submarine the Nautilus. Fortunately for them, Captain Nemo is nice enough to rescue them and take them on board his sub, less fortunate is that he won’t allow them to leave the Nautilus – ever!

From then on Prof Aronnax’s first person narrative takes us along on this extraordinary voyage. The 20,000 leagues of the title refers to the distance, not the depth, covered by Aronnax’s voyage on board the Nautilus, which mostly takes place under the sea. I see what you did there Mr. Verne! I have to confess I am not an enthusiast of marine biology so my mind did float off to other places during some of the more educational passages. In all fairness, the book never bored me though, the tone of the narrative is always affable and pleasant to breeze through. If you are familiar with Disney’s awesome 1954 adaption of the book you will already know what to expect at the climax of the book involving a giant octopus (called devilfish in the book). This scene is brilliantly depicted by Verne, I was surprised how vivid and effective it is even in written form.

The central characters are quite well developed, though I did find Conseil to be subservient to a fault:

“He's in Master's employ, he thinks like Master, he speaks like Master, and much to his regret, he can't be counted on to form a majority.”

In a scene where oxygen was running out of the Nautilus, Conseil says "Oh, if only I didn't have to breathe, to leave more air for Master!" . For heaven’s sake man, get some agency! Ned Land may be a little plebeian but at least he is his own man. The faithful servant Passepartout from Verne’s [b: Around the World in Eighty Days|54479|Around the World in 80 Days|Jules Verne|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1308815551s/54479.jpg|4537271] is very similar to Conseil, but he is much more independent and even goes off on a solo adventure for a while. Aronnax is the least interesting of the main characters, but he makes a good narrator. Captain Nemo is, of course, awesome. A sort of Sherlock Holmes crossed with Batman – with gills (well, no gills but I bet he wishes he has them).

I generally prefer Verne’s [b: Around the World in Eighty Days|54479|Around the World in 80 Days|Jules Verne|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1308815551s/54479.jpg|4537271] to this one, as it has less slack and moves along at a brisker pace. Still I like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, it is very amiable and entertaining to read.

_______________________

* “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin” if you want to get all Frenchie about it.

** Can I just plug my awesome terrible review of Moby-Dick here, it’s probably an all-time worst review of this venerated book. But I like it ;) ****

*** Unfortunately the Nautilus is not yellow so I can’t, in all good conscience, quote from another song.

**** My "emojitional" Twilight review is even worse, and it gets very little love, either because it is too far ahead of its time, or too far behind! But Cecily likes it so it can’t be all bad ;)

Audiobook clearly and entertainingly read by Librivox volunteer Ms. Michele Fry. Thank you!
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review 2014-10-19 09:47
An oceanographic travelogue
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne,Anthony Bonner

Once again my Classical Literature Bookclub has selected a book that I have been meaning to reread but have not been able to due to the multitude of other books on my to-read shelf (and also the fact that the copy that my Dad owns is back in Adelaide, along with the other Jules Verne books that I would like to read again). While many people seem to put Verne into the category of a Science-fiction writer, to me this book comes across more of an adventure than science-fiction (and as I think about it, many of his books seem to be in that category). Certainly he doesn't write science-fiction in the way that we understand the genre these days, nor does he write it in the way that other early authors, such as H.G. Wells, do, however he still holds the title of 'Father of Science Fiction'.

The reason that I say this is because submarines were hardly a new invention in 1870. The first recorded submarine was build by Cornelis Drebbel in 1620. The first military submarine was built in 1775 and called the 'Turtle'. It was also the first submarine to be independently powered by its own screw. The first ship to be sunk by a submarine occurred during the America Civil War (though the submarine was destroyed as well). However, it is not my intention to regurgitate the history of submarines here, as wikipedia does a pretty good job. However, here is a picture of Drebbel's submarine:

 

Drebbel's Submarine

 

 

So, Verne was not speculating of some new invention, or possible invention, but rather painting a picture of a device that was no doubt far in advance of what was available at the time (and didn't take all that long to appear on the military scene as they were in common use in World War I). The picture he was also painting was not only of a vessel that could be devastating in war (though the Nautilus did not use torpedoes but rather a form of advanced ram which would cut through the hull of a ship) but could also allow a group of people to distance themselves from the world and make a new life under the sea. However, as a pirate ship, the Nautilus was portrayed as being very destructive, as the picture of the vessel used in the 1954 film demonstrates (and this is how I picture the Nautilus everytime I read this book):

 

Nautilus

 

The thing that I have noticed in regards to Verne's form of science-fiction is that rather being in the vein of the 20th century writers, Verne seems to write stories that are heavy on the science while not as heavy on the speculation. For instance, in this book there appears to be an awful lot in regards to oceanography, and it is clear that Verne heavily studied the subject as he wrote the book. Not only does he talk about things like ocean currents and sea life (and he paints some wonderful pictures of the undersea world) but also outlines theories such as the creation of islands out of coral reefs. He even suggests that over time such coral islands will continue to grow until the point that they become continents (though Nemo seems to scoff at the idea).

Verne also shows some of his left wing tendencies in this book, subtly attacking colonialism and not so subtly attacking whale hunting. Through the book we learn that Nemo holds a grudge against a colonial power who oppressed his people. It is not stated outright in the book (though when they pass Celon – aka Sri Lanka – there is a mention of him coming from this region, though it is not until a later book that we learn of his origins, namely that he is a prince from India) but we are given a number of hints. This is also hinted at in the final chapters of the book when he attacks another vessel, though we never know of the vessel's origin.

Verne also makes some comments about the dangers of over fishing the oceans. This is a big concern today, especially with activist groups going out every whaling season to attempt to stop whalers from killing whales. We are also hearing of concerns that we may be fishing too much and that the stocks of fish in the sea are not being given a change to rejuvenate. If this was a concern that was weighing on Verne's mind as he was writing this book, how much more so is it a concern today with fishing occurring on an industrial scale.

It was also interesting sitting down with my bookclub today talking about the book (though I did have to leave early). One of the guys, who is versed in engineering, noted that the speed at which the Nautilus travels (around 40 knots I believe) is faster than the nuclear submarines of today. He also noted that the Nautilus was lit by arc-lights, which produce light using huge electric arcs. In those days this was very primitive technology, and though they were used in London, the lamp had to be quite high above the street to prevent people from accidentally being electrocuted. However, noting that our modern phosphorescent lights are a form of arc-lamp, maybe he was suggesting something like that.

Also, upon reading this book the first time, I discovered that these:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Ship-propeller.jpg

are called screws.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1079758252
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text 2014-09-08 20:16
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne,Anthony Bonner

The ocean is the most mysterious place on Earth. We probably know more about the other planets of the Solar system than about the depths of this vast expanse that covers 71% of the surface of our planet. Deep-sea exploration has been fascinating humankind since antiquity. In the “Alexander Romance” (earliest version traced to the third century BC), we find an episode in which Alexander explores the bottom of the sea in a glass diving bell. But the ultimate classic novel dealing with oceanic exploration is “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne (French: “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers”, 1870). This literary masterpiece is one of the earliest science fiction novels, and it features a particularly interesting postromantic character, the “tragic villain” Captain Nemo. Jules Verne shows us that the human soul is like the abyss; one can find light even in an ocean of darkness.

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photo 2014-09-04 05:00
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne,Anthony Bonner
The Ritual - Adam Nevill
Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton

My book haul for today!! :-) 

 

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