Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
by Jules Verne
It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago I read Around The World in 80 Days, another Jules Verne classic, and one of the original “travel” books. I really loved that book because while I was reading it, I was totally wrapped up in it – it was all-consuming in the greatest possible way, completely took me away from my world for a while. I picked up a copy of another one of his very well known classics, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea a couple of months ago, and finally got around to reading it in August. Much like Around The World, it’s a complete whirlwind adventure, fantasy and at the same time, kinda believably plausible; Verne was so, so far ahead of his time writing about crazy submarines! And not only ahead of his time, but his tale has stood the test of time – anyone heard of “The Nautilus” or “Captain Nemo”? That’s where they’re from. Hell, Nemo’s submarine even has a home in Disneyland – that’s when you know you’ve really made it!
But anyway, the book. Basically, we’ve got Captain Nemo and his submarine, The Nautilus. You’ve got the Frenchman Monsieur Arronax, his faithful man-servant Conseil, and the Canadian Ned Land who somehow get caught up in Nemo’s world, and an adventure that takes place below, in and under the sea. Douglas Hill introduces this version (published in 1969), and when I finished reading it, I found that I vividly remembered this part of his introduction which I think describes it better than I can:
“With this approach, the full mind-expanding effect of his work can be felt. We come away from Verne with our imaginations exercised – not our social consciences or our skills at literary appreciation. And certainly not our tendencies towards vague and dreamy flights of fancy. Verne’s books in most cases cannot accurately be called fantasies. He had built a direct line to our rational imagination, and he puts it to work in relation to the clear-cut technological world around us. It is an unfamiliar, and therefore often unforgettable, form of exercise for readers who are not addicts of science fiction.
Verne’s ability to set up this line to our imagination, and to keep it operable long after the books have been read, grows out of the immense enthusiasm with which he relates his stories… And it is contagious: we are carried away, too…”
The story is relayed by M. Arronax after said events have unfolded, and Captain Nemo is painted as quite an odd and mysterious character. He’s incredibly defensive about his decision to leave “earth” as we know it and live out his days in/around/on the waters of the sea. Why? We never really, definitively find out… but he is very passionate about it, as you can well tell from the exchange below that he has with M. Arronax…
“You like the sea, Captain?”
“I love it! The sea is everything… In it is supreme tranquility. The sea does not belong to despots. Upon its surface men can still exercise u just laws, fight, tear one another to pieces, and be carried away with terrestrial horrors… But at thirty feet below its level, their reign ceases, their influence is quenched, and their power disappears. Ah! sir, live – live in the bosom of the waters! There is only independence! There I recognize no masters! There I am free!”
Without giving it all away, it’s another consuming read; if you enjoy travel and adventure books for their ability to help you take a break from the real world, like I do, this will more than fill that desire. It’s beautifully descriptive and vivid, an easy read, entertaining, and full of possibility. Pick up a copy here and enjoy 🙂