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?

#3 Weekly Blogging Tip: Commenting Habits

Thoughtful comments

Last week my tip was about the risks of becoming too obsessed with the number of followers you have.

There was lots of interesting discussion, and one of the issues that came up was how else to judge the success of your blog? It was suggested (by me and some others) that comments was another way of judging whether you are achieving what you want from your blog and so it seemed appropriate that this week we talk about our commenting habits.

It's difficult to frame this discussion topic as an actual tip but here goes:

Be a thoughtful commenter.

I can hear everyone asking what I mean by 'thoughtful commenter'. Let me try and explain.

I am going to generalise and say that there are about 3 kinds of comments.

Spam comments: So far as I am concerned, these are a big 'no no'. What are spam comments? They are those comments you get from someone (usually on a meme related post) that say something along the lines of "Great post. I love your blog, check out mine". You later discover that this same comment has been copied and pasted onto a lot of other people's blogs as well. This doesn't happen to me as much anymore (although I don't really participate in memes very often anymore) but when it does, it drives me crazy.

Spam comments are never cool. The purpose of a comment shouldn't be (in my view) to get someone to come to your own blog. That might be a lovely and welcome side effect but it shouldn't be why you are leaving a comment. This is not thoughtful commenting. This is rude commenting.

I also include in this group any comments in reply to a meme post that might have some personal comment such as 'I really enjoyed that book' quickly followed by 'I hope that you will come and check out my [insert meme post name and link here] post'.

Although this is slightly better than an outright spam comment, I still don't think it's cool. Perhaps if you interacted with what the blogger was saying in their post on a more significant scale it might be acceptable, but otherwise I think it is barely distinguishable from the outright spam comment. If you are participating in a meme, then the link to your post is on the hosting blog and it shouldn't need to be spread about on every single blog you comment on. The purpose of leaving this kind of comment seems simply to be to direct people back to your own post (this is different to sharing a link to your own review on a review post which I think is actually great). That's spam in my books.

Minor comments Brief comments: What I am referring to hear are those comments that go something along the lines of "Great review, I want to read this now" or "Thanks for the reminder, I have been meaning to read this for ages" etc. I want to be very upfront and say I leave comments like this.

These comments aren't necessarily bad comments. They are polite. They show that you have read the post (or at least that you appear to have read it). Most importantly, these comments can reflect all you have to say about a particular post. I read posts sometimes where they serve to remind me that I wanted to read a particular book, but I don't necessarily have anything additional to say. In such cases, the choice is either to leave no comment at all, or leave a minor comment that reflects how you feel. We all like comments, so I tend to leave it anyway.

So, I would suggest that although these aren't the worst kind of comments, they probably aren't ideal if they are the only kind of comments you are leaving on other people's blogs.

Interactive comments: This should be fairly obvious. These are the comments that demonstrate that someone has read the post and thought about the content. It might be that you have read the book that has been reviewed and so you offer your own opinion. It might be that the blogger has said something in their post that has caught your attention and so you respond to it. It might be that you offer a different perspective to the one offered by the blogger (in a nice way of course!!) or saying that you share their perspective for certain reasons.

Even a minor brief comment, take 'Great review, I want to read that' for example, has the potential to become an interactive comment simply by adding a reason at the end: 'Great, review, I want to read that because you talked about the use of hard boiled writing which is a style I want to explore after reading The Long Goodbye recently OR I found what you said about the language used by the author to be quite compelling because I enjoy a very descriptive style of writing'.

Interactive comments can start or continue discussion. They can lead to the sharing of ideas and introduce us to new books.

So, I would argue that interactive comments are the best kind of comments because they encourage other bloggers to keep posting, they help to build community and they really get our bookish thoughts flowing.

So what's a thoughtful commenter?

I believe a thoughtful commenter is someone who participates in the blogging community by reading other blogs and leaving mainly interactive comments (with some minor brief comments as well of course so long as they are used in moderation).

We all put so much work into our blogs. Leaving a nice, interactive comment is one way of showing our appreciation to other bloggers who share our interests and are providing us with lots of interesting content for us to read and think about.

Given all this discussion about commenting, tune in next week for:

Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.

#2 Obsession with Followers
#1 The Follower Gadget
An Introduction

Page Turners is on Twitter!

Page Turners can be found on Twitter!

That's right ladies and gentlemen, I have joined the 21st century and created a twitter account. It was people's responses to my Weekly Blogging Tips posts that inspired me to give something new a try and I am very much looking forward to seeing how/if Twitter affects my blogging.

I intend to use this account primarily as an additional means of sharing with people when Page Turners is updated. No doubt as I become more proficient I will have many other interesting bookish things to share.

It is now possible for you to follow Page Turners on Twitter, as well as to share posts on Page Turners via Twitter.

I am looking forward to adding people to my twitter feed and reading all the interesting things people have to share. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments if you want to.

Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (her highest selling book)

And Then There Were None is Agatha Christie's most popular novel. In fact, I did a bit of research (ie. looked up Wikipedia) and was informed that is actually one of the best selling novels of all time.

It was originally published as Ten Little Niggers, but given the clear racist meaning behind this title, it was renamed in the 60s as And Then There Were None.

Eight different and otherwise unknown to each other people are invited by an old acquaintance to stay on Indian Island (originally Nigger Island). When they arrive, they discover that although there are two additional people on the island, the help, their host has yet to arrive. The boat that took them there has left and they find themselves stranded. Each person has the poem "Ten Little Niggers" framed on the wall of their room. On their first evening there, they discover that they have been trapped on an island by a person determined to kill them all one by one – and that person must be one of their number. And yet, at the close of the book, all ten people are dead.

Who killed them?

I was very taken by this story and had absolutely no idea until it was revealed at the end who the murderer could possibly have been. It was certainly very creative story telling on Miss Christie's part, but I can't help but wonder what makes it the most popular of all her books, to the point where it is one of the highest selling books of all time? It certainly has a lot of murders, more so than any other of her books. And it has one of the trickiest endings to figure out in my view. But I missed having a central detective to follow around as they attempted to solve the crime.

For myself, there are other books I have enjoyed more than this one. I think though I am a little biased toward the Hercule Poirot novels, I just can't help myself.

6.5 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written, couldn't put it down. I would recommend it.

Is this Agatha Christie one of your favourites and what's your theory about why this one might be her most popular novel?