Review: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

We have all heard fantastic things about Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and there were certainly some astonishing things about the book that I appreciated. 

Unfortunately though, there were other less astonishing and ultimately tedious things about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that prevented me from enjoying the book at all.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is written from the perspective of Professor Arronax. Professor Arronax is recruited, along with his servant Conseil, to find what is assumed to be a monstrous sea creature that has been attacking ships throughout the ocean on a world wide scale. He joins a mission with expert whaler Ned Land to locate and destoy the sea creature.

Instead what the three of them discover is a man-mind underwater ship, the Nautilus, captained by the enigma that is Captain Nemo. Captain Nemo has given up his life on land in favour of a life under the sea in what would now be known as a submarine. He holds the three men captive on his submarine, leaving them with no choice but to join his adventures throughout the ocean.

What was astonishing about this book was how scarily accurate Jules Verne's creative imagination was. Although submarine's did exist at the time Jules Verne wrote this book in 1870, they were not at all as advanced as the machine depicted in his piece of fiction, that is, a machine powered by electricity which was derived from a battery on board the ship. After doing some brief research on submarine's after reading this article, it seems that the first time electricity and batteries were used to power submarines wasn't until 1896. The double hull design of the Nautilus didn't feature in real submarines until 1900.

Similarly, although at the time Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the ability to go underwater diving existed, the characters in Jules Verne's books were able to wear self-contained diving suits that enabled them to go on expeditions away from the Nautilus for quite some time. My research indicates that the first self-contained diving suit using compressed oxygen wasn't invented until 1876, 6 years after Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

There were many more examples in this book of other such predications in this work of science fiction that actually came to pass.

Unfortunately, the knowledge that Verne's creative imagination in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea contained eerie predications of the future, wasn't enough to overcome the big weaknesses in this book.

The first was that far too much time was spent writing about such things as the design and capabilities of the Nautilus and cataloguing the underwater sea creatures that were encountered by the adventurers. This meant that the pace of the book was incredibly slow. Although looking back at the book it is possible to see that many things occurred in the plot, it didn't feel as though much was happening at all while I was reading it.

With the feeling that the book was lacking so much action, it would have been nice to have the character development to focus on. Instead, the characters were flat and two dimensional. Ned Land became frustrating for all the whingeing he did, and the servility of Conseil was equally as wearisome. Although I am sure that Verne meant for Captain Nemo to be a mysterious enigma of a man, because of his seeming lack of interest in his new passengers and in anything other than himself and what directly effected him for that matter, I found myself completely uninterested in what it was that had lead him to this life under the sea.

Ultimately, I had to drag myself through the entire book (and I have to admit that there was even some skimming involved). Although I wanted to enjoy Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the slow place and lack of action made for a slow and uninspiring read.

4.5 / 8
Worth reading if you have the opportunity and are a fan of science fiction, but don't prioritise it. 

I know that a lot of people love this book. If you are one of them, what did I miss?
If, like me, you were disappointed by the book what do you think it was that disappointed you?


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