20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Narrator: James Frain
Series: Extraordinary Voyages #6
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on August 9, 2011
Source: Library
Genres: Classic, Science Fiction
Length: 14 hrs 55 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon
Add on Goodreads
four-stars

An American frigate, tracking down a ship-sinking monster, faces not a living creature but an incredible invention — a fantastic submarine commanded by the mysterious Captain Nemo. Suddenly a devastating explosion leaves just three survivors, who find themselves prisoners inside Nemo's death ship on an underwater odyssey around the world from the pearl-laden waters of Ceylon to the icy dangers of the South Pole . . .as Captain Nemo, one of the greatest villians ever created, takes his revenge on all society.
More than a marvelously thrilling drama, this classic novel, written in 1870, foretells with uncanny accuracy the inventions and advanced technology of the twentieth century and has become a literary stepping-stone for generations of science fiction writers.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea alternates between positively boring and absolutely fascinating.

At the story’s opening, the seas are (maybe) being terrorized by (maybe) a giant monster. Professor Pierre Aronnax, a French marine biologist and narrator of the story, and his servant Conseil join an expedition leaving from New York to hunt the creature. Also among the crew is a Canadian whaler and master harpoonist, Ned Land. The ship finds the creature after a long search. It attacks, but the creature damages its rudder and our three protagonists are thrown into the water, only to be rescued by the monster, which, as we all know, turns out to be the Nautilus, created and commanded by Captain Nemo. Thus begins their journey of exploration under the seas, during which they travel the titular 20,000 leagues, or over 69,000 miles.

First the boring. Aronnax is a biologist and Conseil is gifted at classification and they are both entranced with all the fish and sea creatures they see. So, we get lists and lists of shells and fish, genus and species. If I had been reading the book in print, I maybe could have skimmed them, but on audio, I listened to each and every one. I get it: the enormous variety, the beauty, but it just got too tedious. On the other had, I loved seeing Atlantis, shipwrecks, underwater volcanoes. There were definitely thrilling bits too, the fight with the herd of squid, the trip to the south pole.

Aronnax and Conseil don’t really have much personality. Aronnax is a scientist and would almost be content about the submarine for ever. Conseil is his too faithful servant, always calm, always putting Aronnax first. Conseil himself says he thinks what his Master thinks and goes where his master goes. Ned Land is louder, but not very complex. He wants to hunt, and eat meat, and escape. Nemo is the only truly interesting character, only because we know little about him. We know he has removed himself from civilization and would presumably be putting himself in great danger should he reemerge on land. He’s one of the big villains, and I’ll grant you he does blow up one boat and keeps our three prisoner, but overall he just doesn’t seem like a bad guy. He’s seems to be a champion of oppressed people, he cares about his crew.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is interesting, and the oceans are amazing, but it sometimes gets caught up in detail.

About Jules Verne

Jules Gabriel Verne ( 8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) was a French novelist, poet, and playwright.

Verne was born to bourgeois parents in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, but quit the profession early in life to write for magazines and the stage. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a widely popular series of scrupulously researched adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Verne is generally considered a major literary author in France and most of Europe, where he has had a wide influence on the literary avant-garde and on surrealism. He has sometimes been called the “Father of Science Fiction”, a title that has also been given to H. G. Wells and Hugo Gernsback.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

3 Comments

  1. I read this a few years ago and thought it pretty dreadful. I have a high tolerance for boring, but I found this extremely difficult to finish. If it hadn’t been an audio I wouldn’t have persevered.

Leave a comment